Sunday, March 9, 2008

Thai-Cambodian boundary

The old issue on the exact demarcation of the Thai-Cambodian boundary is becoming back into focus now, especially the issue of the Prasat Preah Vihear temple. Actually the boundary between the two countries is rather straight-forward as it follows the watershed of the Dângrêk mountain range - but for the area around this temple the French deviated from the main ridge of the mountains when they demarcated the boundary in 1907, and put the temple to the Cambodian side even though it is located north of the mountain ridge. While the Thai governments in the following years tried to get the boundary adjusted, it was finalized in 1962 by the ruling of the International Court of Justice.

But even though the issue was legally finally settled, the temple continued to ignite tension between both countries, including just lately when Cambodia decided to submit the temple to UNESCO for consideration as a World Heritage site after talks of doing this jointly failed. But while that one has cooled down a little bit, now another unclear part of the boundary came into the news.

The reignited tensions even had one Thai nationalist vandalizing the Khmer Wikipedia and sister sites several times, claiming to continue to destroy it until Cambodia returns the temple. As if trying to destroy an educational website would make the Cambodian government do anything, I doubt they'd ever hear about it. Now quite some range of Thai IPs are blocked from editing the Khmer Wikipedia to prevent the vandal to come back.

I just hope the whole situation does not get out of control again like in 2003 when rioting Cambodians burned down the Thai embassy in Phnom Phen, and the mob at the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok could barely be stopped by a speech of HM King Bhumipol calling them to be calm. And the riots then started from a misunderstood statement of a Thai actress in a soap opera, showing how much tension there is between the two countries.

1 comment:

Rikker said...

About the 2003 riots, I've heard some claim the statement from the soap opera actress wasn't just misunderstood, but fabricated. That is, the group of "Khmer nationalists"--which the newspaper cited as having seen the supposed statement on TV--created the controversy on purpose. But it was only them who saw it, apparently. I've never seen any evidence of what was actually said. So it Turned into a huge media snowball of misguided national pride that makes both sides look oversensitive and reactionary...