News / Asia

    Thai-Cambodia Tensions Ease Ahead of Defense Ministers' Meeting

    Thailand General Yutthasak Sasiprapha (File)
    Thailand General Yutthasak Sasiprapha (File)
    Ron Corben

    Thailand and Cambodia hope a meeting of their defense ministers in September will help rebuild cross-border relations after two years of tensions and armed clashes. The improved diplomatic outlook follows the election in July of the Thai government under Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

    Thai Defense Minister General Yutthasak Sasiprapha and Cambodia’s deputy prime minister and defense minister, General Tea Banh, will co-chair a meeting of the general border committee in Phnom Penh on September 8.

    Panitan Wattanayagorn, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University and former government spokesman, says although there are several outstanding disputes, there is also a sense that both countries want to return to normal diplomatic relations.

    “I think both sides are trying to create a new impression that they are back at the negotiation table.  Of course hard issues are still the same, but they are trying to create an impression that things are back to normal and that’s not all bad because in the situation like this you need to create a better feeling,” he explained.

    Media reports say General Yutthasak will also meet Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

    The talks mark a step toward rebuilding cross-border relations after a turbulent period during the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, the Democrat Party leader.

    Conflicts have focused the 11th century Preah Vihear Hindu temple, with both Thailand and Cambodia accusing the other of acts of aggression and shelling of smaller Hindu temple sites. Some 18 people were killed in the fighting and thousands of others fled their homes.

    Both Cambodia and Thailand laid claims to the temple area. A 1962 World Court ruling awarded the temple to Cambodia but did not adjudicate on surrounding lands on the Thai side of the border.

    In 2008 Cambodia had the temple declared a World Heritage site.  

    Before then, Thailand had insisted both countries make a joint application to the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

    Thai nationalists’ accuse Cambodia of seeking to control the four square kilometers of area on the Thai side of the border, through its proposed management plan.

    Carl Thayer, a political scientist at Australia’s University of New South Wales, says since the election of the Yingluck Shinawatra-led government, the diplomatic climate has improved.

    “Overall prospects are positive at the moment - cautiously positive," Thayer said. "But [Yingluck] is facing tremendous internal problems and if anyone tries to make the border issue a domestic football then it’s going to complicate it.”

    In the past, the border dispute with Cambodia has been a political wedge in Thailand where nationalist groups have accused allies of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of not forcefully representing Thailand’s interests in the dispute.

    Thaksin has long had close ties with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and the two countries had much friendlier relations during Thaksin’s tenure as Thailand’s prime minister. His former telecom company, Shin Corp, played a key role in Cambodia’s mobile phone and cable TV sectors in the 1990s.

    After Thaksin was ousted in a coup in Thailand in 2006, Hun Sen appointed him as an economics advisor in 2009 and he visited Cambodia later that year.

    During 2009, tensions again rose over the border issue, leading to sporadic clashes that continued for the next two years.  

    This July, Cambodian asked the International Court of Justice to rule on the dispute. The court called for a demilitarized zone near the Preah Vihear temple and the posting of Indonesian army observers to enforce the agreement.

    Cambodia is expected to press for Indonesian observers to act as a guarantee against a buildup of Thai troops.

    Hang Chayya, director of the Phnom Penh-based Khmer Institute for Democracy, says, although Cambodia moves to control the temple site’s development, Phnom Penh is more cautious in its negotiations with Thailand.

    “The government still wants to follow up in this with international or Indonesian observers and it wants to move and make an impact in terms of this development plan that it wants to carry out in regard to Preah Vihear. But it’s taking a very cautious sort of approach. It doesn’t want to resurface these issues again with the new government - the Yingluck government,” Hang said.

    Thailand and Cambodia now say restoration of relations is a priority. Hun Sen says he is looking to improve the border situation with the cross-border dispute no longer figuring in talks of the 10-member Association of Southeast Nations.

    You May Like

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    How Diversity Has Changed America

    Over the past four decades, the level of diversity in the United States has increased most in these four states

    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.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.