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

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter 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.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid