Thai-Cambodia: Calm after the storm

Updated On: Oct 20, 2008

Thai and Cambodian military officials have postponed negotiations in Siem Reap scheduled to de-escalate the conflict between the two countries which had let to shootings in their common border between the militaries of the two countries.

The Thais declared that they were not ready yet as they needed to gain approval from parliament before the government can sign any pacts. Cambodia's deputy defence minister General Neang Phat expressed that he had expected the meeting to go on as scheduled.  

Meanwhile, the disputed sites remain unproblematic for the moment with troops from both countries even casually chatting with each other. Cambodian general Srey Dek was even holding hands with Thai colonel Chayan Huay Soongnern hold hands as a sign of friendship or détente – a big difference from the earlier shootout that had occurred at the same area in which two Cambodian soldiers were killed and seven Thai troops injured near Cambodia's ancient Preah Vihear temple.

The center of the storm if Preah Vihear which was awarded UN World Heritage title, sparking off a contestation of ownership between Cambodia and Laos.  For the moment, given the stalled peace talks, both sides are relying on goodwill joint patrols as a temporary solution while awaiting a more permanent arrangement.

Meanwhile the area is suffering economically, especially with the global financial downturn. Up until late June 2008, the site was well-visited by tourists who were attracted to the 11th century Preah Vihear temple with its elegant carvings and stone staircase relics. The Thai entrance to the temple has been closed since 22 June 2008.

Figures from the Thai side show that during the 2006/2007 fiscal year, 142,679 tourists visited the temple and its surroundings, up from 125,353 a year earlier. From October 1, 2007 until the temple entrance closed in June, it had received 111,728 tourists - and none since the furor started.

Thailand is suffering more than Cambodia. Although the World Court ruled in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia, its most user-friendly entrance is found in Thailand's northeastern Si Sa Ket province. The Cambodian entrance is thickly forested which required considering hiking skills or helicopter transportation.


Channelnewsasia, "Thai-Cambodia border dispute talks postponed" dated 19 October 2008 in the Channelnewsasia website [downloaded on 19 Oct 2008], available at 

Channelnewsasia, "Thai-Cambodian conflict hits border villagers in the pocket" dated 19 October 2008 [downloaded on 18 Oct 2008], available athttp://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/afp_asiapacific/view/383881/1/.ht...

Related Article