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

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora