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
TEXT SIZE - +
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

'Exceptionally Lucky' US Boy Survives Flight in Wheel Well

The boy was unconscious for most of the flight, and appeared to be unharmed after enduring the extremely cold temperatures and lack of oxygen More

US Anti-Corruption Law Snags Major Tech Company

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter in December, 1977 More

Cameron Criticized for Calling UK 'Christian Country'

Letter from scientists, academics and writers says the prime minister is fostering division by repeatedly referring to England as a 'Christian country' 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, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid