Former Khmer Rouge soldiers who had enjoyed a decade of
peace picked up their weapons again this month, finding themselves once again
in jungle positions, not in a civil war this time, but in an armed defense
against a potential Thai threat.
Cambodian and Thai leaders are seeking to end the border crisis
through bilateral talks in Siem Reap Wednesday, but officials and analysts said
this week the tension over the border at Preah Vihear temple would not be
which shares 805 kilometers with Thailand, has not had a conflict
with its western neighbor in 46 years, but the last time it did, the standoff
was over the same temple. Thailand
occupied Preah Vihear temple until a 1962
World Court decision ruled in favor of Cambodian
The rankling loss of the temple flared up in Thai politics
once Unesco's World Heritage Committee voted to protect the temple under Cambodia.
"The tension led to an internal conflict between politicians of Thailand,"
government spokesman Khieu Kanharith explained. "The opposition party had protested
against irregularities [and] corruption, and finally they pretended to stir up
a nationalist movement through the issue of Preah Vihear."
Preah Vihear temple may have sparked the current crisis, but
driving it are complicated Thai politics and lingering failures between both
sides to settle their borders.
government is still reeling from a 2006 coup that ousted then-prime minister
Thaksin Shinawatra, and Thai agreement to allow Cambodia to forward its Preah
Vihear application to Unesco in June led to the resignation of the Thai foreign
minister, Noppadon Pattama.
"The Thai government is under pressure from the opposition and wants to
please them," said Im Francois, a political analyst for the Center for
Social Developmetn. "The Thai government finally decided to deploy troops
at Preah Vihear, but this attitude is contradictory to the international context
and the context of Asean, which prohibits any sort of deployment of
The border crisis is also becoming a problem for Asean
legitimacy, he said.
"So what does that mean for the future of Asean?"
he said. "Will it be dissolved, or become useless?"
Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay, of the Sam Rainsy Party, said
this week the deployment of Thai soldiers was the product of an ambitious
government and the consequence of a bilateral agreement over the temple in
A disputed area around Preah Vihear temple, meanwhile, is
bound to incur military tensions, Im Francois said.
And so the former Khmer Rouge fighters have been called
again, and more talks are set, as Thai troops occupy a pagoda on disputed land they claim as their
"It is not yet at the peak of tension, but Thailand
wants to formalize the land now that it has encroached on," Khieu
Kanharith said. "We're telling the international community that Thailand is abusing