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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs