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Asean Affairs  8  February 2011

Fire on the border

By  David Swartzentruber

AseanAffairs     8 February 2011

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The on-again off-again border dispute between Cambodia and Thailand is now in remission with indications that both sides have some understanding that talking is better than shooting at each other.

The dispute centers around 46 square kilometers of not particularly valuable land that is near an 11-th century Hindu temple called Preah Vihear. The ancient temple is in Cambodia but the entrance to the temple is in Thailand. The border has never been properly surveyed in part due to the alleged presence of unexploded landmines left over the Khmer Rouge era in the 1970s. Ownership of the Preah Vihear Hindu temple had been determined in Cambodia's favor by the International Court of Justice in a 9-3 vote in 1962. Thai observers admit that it is very difficult to undo the 1962 World Court decision and decisions by Unesco.

On the diplomatic front, Thailand has responded to Cambodia’s request for UN intervention with a note stating that the issue can be resolved through bilateral negotiation.

The theme of the rhetoric between the two Asean countries borders on the childish, “Who fired first? They did.”

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, who represents his country as chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, visited Cambodia yesterday to help mediate a peaceful solution to the conflict. He is scheduled to visit Thailand today.

The conflict erupted at a time when two Thais are being held in a Cambodian prison at the start of lengthy prison terms for spying and during a yellow shirt nationalistic protest demonstration in Bangkok.

Thai Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon has ordered the 2nd Army to try to hold further talks with Cambodia to find a way to effectively end the fighting, as there have been casualties, particularly on the Cambodian side.

The seventh meeting of the Joint Commission (JC) on bilateral cooperation between Thailand and Cambodia on Thursday, February 3, apparently failed to forestall hostilities.

Thai media appear to be frustrated with the continuing dispute between the two neighbors and the negative effect it could bring on tourism and trade.

Paul A. Ebeling, Jnr

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This year in Thailand-what next?

04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More

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