The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), signed in 2000 under the Democrat-led government of Chuan Leekpai and the dictatorship-led government of Hun Sen, is a legal instrument meant to set up a joint boundary committee, to help survey and demarcate the border of the two countries Thailand and Cambodia initiated by Thailand.
Many of Cambodians are made to believe that this MOU 2000 is the main legal instrument, giving Cambodia the upper hand, to bring peace, to negotiate the border conflicts, to protect Cambodian territory and on how to demarcate the border lines. But to me I see it as disadvantage and a root cause of all the problems.
I don´t want to explore other root causes of the conflicts but just MOU 2000 to why it has become the effective instrument to create the border conflicts between Thailand and Cambodia until today.
The positive point of the MOU 2000 for Cambodia is that the border´s resolution between the two countries will be negotiated and demarcated basing on its Article 1 (c), which says:"Maps which are the result of demarcation works of the Commission of Delimitation of the Boundary between Indochina and Siam set up under the Convention of 1904 and the Treaty of 1907 between France and Siam, and other documents relating to the application of the Convention of 1904 and the Treaty of 1907 between France and Siam."
With this, it is sure that the “maps” mentioned in this Article is the 1:200,000 scale one, which is part of a series of maps made by France that show the Preah Vihear Temple and its adjacent area being in Cambodia.
However, we should recognize that this MOU 2000 also gives Thailand the bid in blocking border negotiation and demarcationwhich thought to be critical to its national pride. More, it plays as the key alibi for Thailand to lay claim for any land areas along the borders for its political and national interests as it has happened so far, for instances, the case of Prasat Preah Vihear , Prasat Ta Mean Thom, and Prasat Ta Krobei.
If we remember before the clashes happened at Prasat Preah Vihear, Thailand often raised four reasons to argue such as: (1) the easy gateway to reach the temple is from the Thai side, (2) the borderline doesn´t follow the watershed principle, (3) the border line demarcation is not yet complete, and (4) it needs co-management plan of Prasat Preah Vihear. But from 2009 Abhsit has turned these arguments to be only one practical point – the “disputed zone” or “white zone”, which he based his claim on the spirit of MOU 2000 in particular Article 5 which stated that:
“To facilitate the effective survey along the entire stretch of common land boundary, authorities of either Government and agents shall not carry any work resulting in changes of environment of the frontier zone, except that which is carried out by the Joint Technical Sub-Commission in the interest of the survey and demarcation.”
With this, he repeatedly defends Thailand´s position at the international arena that Thailand is not invading Cambodia but it acts in self-defense and protect Thailand´s territory which Cambodia is occupying.
He also interprets that the MOU 2000 prioritize the bilateral talk under framework of the General Border Committee and the Regional Border Committee. This is the main reason that Thailand keeps insisting the bilateral talk with Cambodia even though it clearly knows that the talk has not worked for years.
The benefits of the MOU 2000 raised by Abhsit are clearly told in some of his speeches published in the followings:
- Speaking during his weekly TV and radio address, Sunday, 8 August 2010 Abhisit emphasized the Thai government understanding of the apparent impasse while the commission acknowledges that Cambodia is still unable to submit its map. He said that the 2000 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) contains benefits to Thailand as it prevents the Cambodian government from submitting its map to the UNESCO World Heritage Commission (WHC) because the border demarcation is not yet completed.
- During the TV night broadcast on 23 January 2011, Abhisit said that the memorandum was a tool for keeping either country from asserting unilaterally its territorial claim over disputed border areas. The memo required the two countries to determine together what aspects of the dispute could be settled and what remained contentious.
- And most importantly, Abhisit said in his letter to UN to counter Hun Sen´s letter to UN dated 10 August 2010 that the current problems with Cambodia stemmed from Cambodia’s encroachments of Thai territory. “The current problems arise from Cambodia’s encroachment of Thailand’s territory in violation of international law, and in particular Article 5 of MOU”, said the letter.
So, we do wonder why Cambodian leader signed this MOU if we have already had the internationally recognized treaties, maps, and verdict to demarcate the border lines of the countries. Didn´t Cambodian government have any legal team work, international law experts, political analysts to analyze the vision and the affect of this MOU before it was signed?
Now, we need this MOU revoked because it benefits nothing to Cambodia but giving Thailand the reasons to invade us, losing more territorial integrity, and suffering our people.