Sunday, November 10, 2013

Despite Cambodian, Thai leaders' commitment to ICJ's verdict, fears of violence remain high: analysts

News Analysis:

by Wang Qibing, Nguon Sovan

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 10 (Xinhua) -- Monday's ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the case regarding the disputed land near Preah Vihear temple between Cambodia and Thailand will be the best choice for the two neighbors to end their bitter border dispute, Cambodian analysts said here Sunday.

However, fears of violence remain high as Thai nationalist and opposition groups may use this opportunity to stir up nationalism and anti-government, they noted.

"Both Cambodian and Thai peoples, governments, and militaries have to respect and observe the court's decision and regard it as a win-win for both peoples and countries," Chheang Vannarith, a senior researcher at the Cambodian Institute for Peace and Cooperation, told Xinhua.

"They should end such border dispute and move together to build and nurture peace, stability and development along the border areas," he said.

The Hague-based ICJ will on Monday hand down its verdict in the simmering border spat between the two countries over a 4.6 square- km disputed land near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple after Cambodia filed a complaint in April 2011.

Major General Thul Sovan, deputy commander of Preah Vihear temple frontline region, said on Sunday that the situation at the border near the temple remained calm and tourists still visited the temple as normal.

"However, villagers in nearby villages have dug trenches and bunkers already for any unexpected situation," he told Xinhua over telephone.

He said the troops have received an order from Prime Minister Hun Sen to "exercise utmost restraint" to avoid any renewal of clashes with the Thai side.

Hun Sen said Thursday that he and Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra have agreed that whatever the ICJ's verdict is, the two Southeast Asian nations have to comply with this decision and try to maintain peace and stability along the border at any cost.

"The verdict will enable the two sides to end the issue peacefully in the spirit of the mutual respect for international law, national sovereignty, and territorial integrity, and maintain good neighboring relationships," the premier said in a special video recording, which was broadcast on all local TV channels.

He urged troops along the border and the Cambodian people to stay calm, pending the court's decision.

"I'd like to appeal to all types of armed forces who are on duties to defend the border to keep calm, exercise utmost restraint, and avoid any activities that could lead to tension or clashes," he said.

Even though the leaders of the two countries have agreed to abide by the ICJ ruling, fears remain high that nationalist and opposition groups may stir up violence in border villages.

"Domestic political polarization in Thailand may push the tensions and security risks to the disputed areas near the Preah Vihear temple," Chheang Vannarith said."The most complicated issue is the Thai domestic politics--the nationalist and opposition groups may use this opportunity to stir nationalism and anti- government sentiment."

"Regardless of whether the court's decision in favor of Cambodia or Thailand, they will protest against the incumbent Thai government and demand for more assertive actions including the use of military forces against Cambodia," said Vannarith, who is also a lecturer of Asia Pacific Studies at the University of Leeds in Britain.

Political analyst Kem Ley said Monday's ruling is likely to pose a major challenge for the Thai government because it coincides with a controversial political amnesty bill, which has already triggered mass street demonstrations in Bangkok.

"If the verdict is not in favor of Thailand, Thai nationalist and opposition groups may intensify their protests to influence the Army," he said Sunday. "The Army, to serve their people, may take any military actions against Cambodia so that, want or not want, it may trigger clashes."

Preah Vihear, a Hindu temple, is located on the top of a 525- meter cliff in the Dangrek Mountains, about 500 km northwest of Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia.

The ICJ awarded Cambodia the temple and its vicinity on June 15, 1962, but Thailand claimed the ownership of 4.6 square km of scrub next to the temple in 2008 when the UNESCO inscribed the temple on the World Heritage List. The temple had become a flashpoint of armed clashes between the two countries' troops since then.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said in June 2011 that the sporadic clashes left 24 Cambodian civilians and soldiers dead, forced tens of thousands of people to flee homes, and caused serious damage to the temple.

Tensions between the two nations have calmed since July 2011 when Yingluck, the sister of exiled ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, became prime minister of Thailand.

Thaksin and Hun Sen are close friends.


Anonymous said...

ការពារអីតែខាងលិចនោះ សូមការពារខាងកើត

Anonymous said...

Hun sen will create a war with Thai to quiet cnrp .If crnp will do protest or what ever Hun will arrest it this time because Hun will said no protest in time of war. you know Hun will give some land to Thai but as Thai to make as a real war but actualy just a trick .If real war TOUL KRA SANG will be turn to ash in blink of eye. Watch out this the window for Hun sen to move.

Anonymous said...

10:36 PM WRong! Hun sen don't need any excuse to use Thai conflict for CNRP protest! everybody knows that CNRP demo is just like a picnic and completely useless... have no effect whatsoever on him...and plus as the time drags on the less supporters Rainsy will have. As it now Rice is already COOK.