News / Asia

Domestic Politics Drive Thai-Cambodia Border Dispute

A supporter of the People's Alliance for Democracy, also known as the Yellow Shirts, sleeps on the street near Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, January 27, 2011
A supporter of the People's Alliance for Democracy, also known as the Yellow Shirts, sleeps on the street near Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, January 27, 2011

Multimedia

Audio
Brian Padden

Some regional political analysts say domestic politics are driving the escalating tension between Thailand and Cambodia. There are conflicting opinions, though, about whether the current border dispute is likely to lead to military confrontation or is just political posturing.

The Preah Vihear Hindu temple, situated on the border of Thailand and Cambodia has been a source of friction for years. In 1962 the United Nations ruled the ancient complex is in Cambodia, but much of the surrounding land is Thai territory.

Increasing tensions

The dispute over the area flared up again in 2008, with occasional minor clashes between the two country’s armies since then.

But tensions between the two soared in December, when seven Thai activists affiliated with the People's Alliance for Democracy, known as the Yellow Shirts, went to another disputed border area and were arrested by Cambodian authorities.

Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a fellow at Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, said the Thai activists wanted to provoke a crisis to rally political support for elections expected later this year. And he says by arresting the activists and threatening to charge them with espionage, Cambodia gave the activists what they wanted.

Domestic politics

"It is an overreaction of Cambodia, but to be fair with Cambodia, this is basically about Thailand domestic politics," said Pavin. "And these domestic forces in Thailand have been trying to pull Cambodia into the conflict."

A Cambodian court has freed five of the seven. Two others have been held for trial, and a verdict in their case could come as soon as Wednesday.

Over the past week, thousands of Yellow Shirt protesters have rallied in Bangkok demanding the Thai government take back the contested area by force. Cambodia has responded by raising troop levels on the border.

Carl Thayer is a Southeast Asia specialist with the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defense Force Academy.  He said despite the recent provocations, there is little cause to be concerned about a military confrontation.

"These are minor things and both sides have adopted an exaggerated sense that national territory is under threat, which in fact it is not," said Thayer. "The status quo is being maintained."

Political theater?

Thayer called the current situation political theater and said Thai military leaders have indicated the situation will be resolved peacefully.

Pavin said the Thai government may be forced, however, to act to maintain the support of the Yellow Shirts.

"It would be absurd for the government to basically declare war with Cambodia. In many ways, yes, it makes sense for the government to kind of pull back. But I do not know whether it is a little too late."

Both Pavin and Thayer said the heightened tension is being driven mostly by the political situation in Thailand, which is deeply divided.

Competing protests

The Yellow Shirts, who are considered more urban and middle class, occupied the main government office in Bangkok in 2008, and shut down the city’s airports. Their protests contributed to the ouster of two governments allied with former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and led to the creation of the current government.

In 2010, tens of thousands of rival Red Shirts, representing many residents of rural areas, held their own protest in Bangkok to demand new elections. After two months of demonstrations, the Thai military intervened and 90 people died in the confrontation.

Pavin said the Yellow Shirts strategy to unite Thais against a common enemy in Cambodia could actually split them from allies in the ruling Democrat Party.

"If you even look at a deeper level, this is a fragmentation within the royalist group and I don't think the Bangkok elite, the traditional elite, they are very happy to see the fragmentation among like-minded."

These analysts say the tension between Thailand and Cambodia likely will continue until new elections are set in Thailand and the political parties focus again on domestic issues.



You May Like

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid