Cambodian political analysts are worried that bilateral
border talks with Thailand
will not yield results, as Cambodia's
neighbor continues to face a political crisis, and that continued delays could
lead to eventual fighting among troops on the border.
Critics of bilateral talks say Cambodia should instead renew its
efforts for international intervention, including through the UN Security
Council or Asean.
Independent analysts Chea Vannath, founder of the Center for
Social Development, said in a recent interview that bilateral talks should
never have taken place and are unlikely to bring results now.
"Under the present circumstances of political turmoil,
I don't think the Thai government can make a proper decision," she said. "We
have enough legal grounds from the
Hague International Court, which ruled the area
belongs to Cambodia.
So we could go to the international community rather than sit in such bilateral
talks with Thailand."
Cambodian and Thai troops have been deployed on the border
in several provinces, following an incursion by Thai soldiers into a pagoda
claimed by Cambodian near Preah Vihear temple in July.
Opposition protesters are demanding the Thai prime minister,
Samak Sundaravaj, step down, and last week the second foreign minister in two
months resigned. At least one demonstrator has been killed in political
violence in Bangkok,
and 43 have been injured.
Thun Saray, president of rights group Adhoc, said that in
such an environment, Cambodia
should seek opinions from the opposition and civil society and begin to lobby
diplomats for multi-lateral negotiations.
"The government should take different opinions from all
Cambodian circles, from within and outside the government, as well as civil
society," he said. A lobby campaign with diplomats should "explain
has already long acted in goodwill, but now bilateral talks have gone
Without a strong lobbying campaign with international
diplomats, complaints will produce little results, he added. Nor will relying
beneficence to solve longstanding border disputes.
Prolonged deployment of soldiers along the border will mean
increased tension, as soldiers begin to feel bored, or if an accidental
explosion occurs, he said.
"We have waited long, so if it will take another year
and another, what can we do?" he said. "We should think really
Many of the soldiers along the border are former Khmer Rouge
fighters, with strong nationalist tendencies and "boiling hearts,"
Chea Vannath said. Such conditions run a high risk of serious danger, she said.
Chaturont Chaiyakam, first secretary of the Thai Embassy,
declined to comment.
However, government spokesman Khieu Kanharith expressed
optimism with bilateral negotiation so far and said he didn't expect the UN to
take any action other than to tell both sides to settle the matter among each
"If we complain to the United Nations or the United
Nations Security Council, what would the reply be?" he said. "They will
say, 'Both sides, please be tolerant and continue negotiations and solve the problem
peacefully.' That's all."
"We already know about it, so why should we do that and
get them to admonish us?" he said. "We know the UN's principles. In
supporting Cambodia, they
are afraid Thailand
will feel upset. In supporting Thailand,
they are afraid Cambodia
will feel upset. Seeking the UN's help is not as easy as they predict."
Both sides have already withdrawn most troops from the
pagoda at the center of the standoff, which lies just west of Preah Vihear
temple, Khieu Kanharith said, adding that border issues are complicated and
have gone unresolved for more than 100 years.
Negotiations over border demarcation move slowly, he said,
but they must continue little by little, settling demarcation posts and
avoiding armed conflict. He also acknowledged that Thailand's government will not be
able to do anything while it is in crisis.
Council of Minister spokesman Phay Siphan also said
bilateral talks had been encouraging so far. The government recognized the
democratically elected prime minister, he said, and was working to show good
faith before seeking multi-lateral solutions.
"We are trying our best," he said. "This work
is enormous, an international issue. Even national issues, such as a civil case
in a national court, sometimes take more than a year. We have worked on this
just more than a month, but we have worked quickly."
Not everyone is as optimistic.
Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said recently the talks had
failed time and again, allowing for the border dispute to spread, from Preah
Vihear into other provinces, including the Ta Moan temple complex in Oddar
"The longer they have negotiated with us, the more rights
they have claimed on territory," he said. "Moreover, we see
continuing negotiations make no sense, because it seems the [Thai] government will
collapse before long. So we should seek as many experts as possible to bring
the case to UN."