Ties between Cambodia and Thailand have been strained since June 2008 when a border conflict broke over land surrounding the 11th century Hindu temple, Preah Vihear, after it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site at Cambodia’s insistence. The Khmer temple is owned by Cambodia but the territory around it, including the lead up to the most accessible gate, is in Thailand. The Thai-Cambodian border is matter of dispute and maps used by Thailand and Cambodia to stake their claims have a shady history.

When the conflict was it at its height both sides fired shells across the disputed border, soldiers engaged in firefights and civilians evacuated villages caught in the crossfire and perhaps purposely shelled. Thai and Cambodian troops dug trenches only a few meters apart in the area around the temple. Clashes in October 2008 left two Cambodia soldiers and one Thai soldier dead. Eleven more were killed in February 2011 and dozens were injured. Cambodia claimed that Thai troops damaged the staircase and a naga creature on the temple with rocket fire during one border exchange. The Thai government said the Thais only used rifles accused the Cambodia of using damaging rockets. By the time the conflicted simmered down in 2012, about two dozen people had been killed, scores had been wounded and thousands of civilians had fled their homes, some of which had been set afire by the cross-border shelling.

The Preah Vihear temple conflict occurred at a time when the Thai government was undergoing an upheaval and Cambodia was facing its first elections in five years. The nationalism-stirring conflict helped Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen secure a larger victory in the election than he otherwise might of but exacerbated tensions and divisions in tense, divided Thailand.

The 11th-century Preah Vihear Temple is located in the Dângrêk Mountains between the Choam Khsant district in the Preah Vihear province of northern Cambodia and the Kantharalak district (amphoe) in the Sisaket province of Northeastern Thailand. It is perched on a cliff overlooking the north Cambodia plain. See Places

Background of Temple-Border Dispute Between Thailand and Cambodia

Thailand has occupied the area Preah Vihear Temple since 1949, when Cambodia was a French Protectorate. Cambodia and Thailand clashed several times in the 1960s in a border dispute over which country had the right to possess Preah Vihear. The World Court in The Hague Court settled the dispute in favor of Cambodia in 1962 but Thailand said afterwards that solution was only "temporary" and claimed the 4.6-square kilometer area adjacent to the temple as Thailand’s territory. After the Khmer Rouge was ousted from most of Cambodia in 1979 it remained holed up in the area near the temple into the 1990s.

The Preah Vihear temple area has been the subject of often rancorous debate within Cambodia and Thailand and between the two nations since the very late 19th century. The Franco-Siamese treaty of 1867 forced Siam to renounce suzerainty over Cambodia, and leaving Siam for the control of Battambang, Siem Reap, Banteay Meanchey and Oddar Meancheay provinces, which officially became provinces of Thailand. In 1907, the four provinces were ceded back to France in an exchange for regaining Thai sovereignty of Trat Province and Amphoe Dan Sai of Loei Province, in a border treaty between France and Thailand. In 1907 the Thai-Cambodian border was mapped by the French on behalf of a bilateral border commission. The map that was drawn up showed Preah Vihear Temple as being in Cambodia, which is different from the 1904 agreement. Despite this, Thailand circulated the map for official use. The circulation significantly affects the current dispute.[Source: Wikipedia]

During World War II, Thailand took advantage of the 1940 French surrender to regain Khmer and Lao territory lost in the 1904 and 1907 exchanges; Battambang Province of Thailand (modern day Battambang Province and Pailin municipality, Cambodia), Phibunsongkhram (modern day Siem Reap, Oddar Meancheay and Banteay Meanchey provinces, Cambodia), Nakorn Champasak Province (modern day Champassack Province, Laos) and Lan Chang (modern day Xaignabouli, Laos). Beginning in December 1940, this invasion started the French-Thai War. The Thai army and air force, better equipped and outnumbering the Colonial French forces, easily won on land.

After World War II, Thai Prime Minister Pridi Phanomyong agreed to return the captured territories to France, as a condition for being regarded as neither an aggressor nor a member of the Axis Powers so as not to suffer a similar fate to Germany, Japan and Italy, and admission to the newly created United Nations. Upon Cambodian Independence and the French withdrawal in 1953 Thailand occupied Preah Vihear Temple in 1954.

In 1962 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands, awarded ownership of Preah Vihear Temple to Cambodia by a 9 to 3 vote, stating that the 1907 map clearly showed Preah Vihear as being in Cambodia. The court only ruled that the temple belonged to Cambodia, and did not rule on the surrounding adjacent lands. Thailand reacted angrily, as the 1907 map and ICJ ruling did not follow the watershed line at Preah Vihear despite clearly following the watershed for hundreds of kilometers along the surrounding Dangrek Mountains as had been the agreement of the bilateral border commission. Thailand eventually reluctantly handed over the temple but virtually no surrounding areas, claiming that the border has never been officially demarcated here.

Preah Vihear During the Vietnam War and Khmer Rouge Eras

Ker Munthit of Associated Press wrote: “Preah Vihear was held by the U.S.-backed government in Cambodia during the 1970-75 war and was one of the last places to fall to the Khmer Rouge. Ousted by a Vietnamese invasion in 1979, the Khmer Rouge occupied the temple until 1998. Two Belgian tourists who were apparently trying to visit the temple in 1994 were abducted by Khmer Rouge guerrillas and then killed. [Source: Ker Munthit, Associated Press, July 26, 2008 ]

“Cambodian refugees fled in droves across the border to Thailand after the 1979 Vietnamese invasion to escape conflict in their homeland. Keo Neang, a 46-year-old nurse who lives near the temple, said she and hundreds of other Cambodians were shoved down steep slopes by Thai troops near the ancient temple, which sits high on a cliff along Cambodia's northern border with Thailand.

“Though Thailand denies the incident happened, she said she remembers her companions blown apart by land mines that littered the jungle below the magnificent sanctuary, while other Cambodian refugees were gunned down by Thai soldiers as they tried to escape back into Thailand. "I heard cries for help from people who were injured. Some were begging for water as they were bleeding to death," said Keo Neang, tears streaming down her face. “

Tension Increase as Preah Vihear Applies to Become an UNESCO World Heritage Site

The ownership dispute flared up again after Cambodia submitted an application to UNESCO requesting that Preah Vihear be designated as a World Heritage site. Thailand contended that the application requested such designation for land surrounding the temple that Thailand considers belong to it. In the interest of cross-border relations Cambodia withdrew the application. In 2008, after winning support from Thailand, it submitted a modified map requesting the designation only for the temple but not the surrounding land.

By then the Preah Vihear temple issue, both its location and listing, had become the subject of nationalist political posturing in both Cambodia and Thailand. The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), a Thai protester group, has turned the temple into a cause célèbre to pressure rival political groups. In 2006 the PAD led street protests that led first to Thai general elections in April 2006, which was followed by the ouster of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in a military coup in June 2006. The Cambodian People's Party (CPP) government of Prime Minister Hun Sen has used the temple and border issue to fire up nationalist fervor and win votes for its landslide victory in elections on July 27, 2008.

In January 2008, the Thai Defense Ministry protested Cambodia's attempt to register the temple as a UNESCO World Heritage Site without agreement from Thailand. In March 2008, Cambodia informed Thailand of their plan to register Preah Vihear Temple as a World Heritage Site. In April 2008, Thailand (under a different cabinet) and Cambodia said they planned a talk on the issue before the registration. Thailand insisted that it would support the registration of the temple but that the process 'must not affect the disputed borderline'. On June 18, 2008, Thailand and Cambodia made a joint communique regarding the temple registration.

Beginning of the Temple-Border Dispute Between Thailand and Cambodia

The dispute began in June 2008 after three Thai activists were detained by Cambodia authorities in a disputed area adjacent too the temple and Thai Army rangers move into the areas, ostensibly to escort the three back home. After that both Thailand and Cambodia began building up their forces with hundreds of troops along the border.

According to the Cambodian ambassador to the United Nations, the dispute began when about 50 Thai soldiers moved into the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara pagoda vicinity located in Cambodia's territory at about 300 meters from the Temple of Preah Vihear. Thailand claims that demarcation has not yet been set that separated the Cambodian the area adjacent to the temple from land judged to be Thailand’s by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 1959.

On June 22, 2008, Cambodia closed the border crossing to Preah Vihear in response to Thai protests held at the border crossing. The protests were championed by anti-Thaksin opposition figure, Sonthi Limthongkul, who claimed the government of Thai Prime Minister Samak Sudaravej (regarded as a Thaksin uppet) had gained business concessions in Cambodia in payment for ceding Thai territory to Cambodia when negotiating the Preah Vihear site map that would be presented to UNESCO. On June 30, 2008 the Nation newspaper in Bangkok published an editorial online highly critical of the People's Alliance for Democracy for its use of Preah Vihear temple in its campaign against the People Power Party government of Prime Minister Samak Sudaravej.

Cambodians Celebrate Designation of Preah Vihear Temple as a UNESCO World Heritage Site

On July 2, 2008, as UNESCO began its annual meeting in Quebec, Canada, the Bangkok Post online published a Deutsche Presse-Agentur (German Press Agency) report that erroneously stated that Preah Vihear partially sits on Thai territory. Following the Thai government's decision to support Cambodia's bid for World Heritage listing, anti-Thaksin Shinawatra Thai opposition figures mounted a legal challenge against Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama. The Thai Constitutional Court finally upheld the suit on July 7, 2008 in an 8–1 judgment that the foreign minister's joint communique with Cambodia was 'unconstitutional' on the grounds it violated Article 190 of Thailand's 2007 Constitution, which calls for a public debate and Cabinet-level approval before any such authorization can take place. Three days later Noppadon Pattama resigned. [Source: Wikipedia]

On July 8, 2008, UNESCO designated Preah Vihear temple as a Cambodian UNESCO World Heritage Site. Thailand acknowledged that Cambodia legally owned the temple but said the map used in Cambodia’s UNESCO application improperly placed the 4.6 square kilometers of land near the temple in Cambodian territory.

On July 8, 2008, thousands of Phnom Penh residents marched through the streets in celebration of the listing of Preah Vihear temple as a Cambodian UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the evening an outdoor concert was held at Phnom Penh’s Wat Phnom to celebrate the listing. The concert was nationally broadcast on CTN and emceed by Cambodia's biggest television star. There were also traditional Khmer performances and fireworks. Despite persistent rain, thousands of Cambodians attended. On July 14, 2008, 8,000 Cambodians filled Phnom Penh's Olympic Stadium Indoor Arena for a concert hosted by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and simulcast on Bayon Television. Sok An had just returned from the UNESCO' conference in Quebec. [Ibid]

On August 1, 2008, Bun Rany, wife of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, conducted a Buddhist ritual at the temple; thousands of Cambodians also joined the ritual. On the same night, the anti-Thai government People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) led thousands of their supporters in a rival ritual, by praying Suttas that the Gautama Buddha gave to his monks; they claimed this was to prevent any negative effects from the Cambodian ritual. Many Thais accused Bun Rany of conducting black magic aimed to weaken Thailand. [Ibid]

Tensions After Preah Vihear Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site

On July 15, 2008, cross-border tensions flared after Cambodian authorities arrested three Thai nationals who had attempted to plant the Thai flag near the temple. Several dozen Thai soldiers were claimed by Cambodian to have subsequently crossed the border. One Thai soldier lost his leg to a landmine detonation. Thailand maintained that its troops were deployed to protect its sovereignty and ensure that any protests by Thais near the temple remain orderly, although a senior Thai military official acknowledged that the troops were on "disputed" ground. [Source: Wikipedia]

On July 16, 2008, Thailand increased the number of troops stationed in the border region adjacent to Preah Vihear temple. On July 17, 2008, the total number of troops at the temple increased to over 1,000, with some of the 400 Thai troops in the area occupying a Buddhist pagoda near the temple and claimed by Cambodia. Thai forces denied they were inside Cambodian territory. In a letter to the Thai Prime Minister, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen called for the immediate withdrawal of Thai troops and protesters from the area.

About 4,000 troops on both sides were stationed in the area. AP reported: The two sides, their guns drawn, faced off at a pagoda about 650 feet from the 11th century Preah Vihear temple, but the Cambodians eventually pulled back Cambodia Brig. Gen. Chea Keo said. "We exercised patience to prevent weapons from being fired," he said....Thai soldiers entered the surrounding area, staking out positions at a nearby Buddhist temple compound. However, some resident Cambodian monks remained and Cambodian soldiers have continued to visit them. Chea Keo said 50 Cambodian soldiers went to the pagoda compound Thursday planning to spend the night, but the two sides raised their rifles at each other when the Thais moved to evict them. The standoff lasted about 10 minutes before the Cambodians departed, he said. [Source: AP, July 18, 2008]

Thai army commander Gen. Anupong Paojindasaid said he has ordered his troops to refrain from using force. “The problem has been there for a long time because there has been no demarcation of the border yet,” Anupong told reporters. Thai officials have publicly denied that their troops crossed the border, saying the soldiers are in Thai territory to protect its sovereignty. However, a senior Thai military source who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation acknowledged Wednesday that Thai troops were inside “disputed border territory.” Thai troops in combat gear and armed with rifles sat in small groups in the jungle on Preah Vihear mountain, while Cambodian troops paced only a few yards (meters) away, some of them carrying B-40 rocket launchers. Cambodian troop reinforcements also were on the road. [Source: AP, July 17, 2008]

On July 18, 2008, the Thai government handed Cambodia a letter from Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej insisting Thai troops are deployed on Thai soil. In a letter to Hun Sen, the Thai PM said Cambodian troops and buildings on the disputed 4.6 square kilometers (1.8 square mile) area were a "violation of Thailand's sovereignty and territorial integrity", but that his government was "resolved to seek a just and peaceful solution to the situation." [Source: Wikipedia]

On July 19, 2008, the Thai and Cambodian governments sent more troops and heavy guns to the disputed border ahead of high-level talks scheduled for July 21, 2008 between the Cambodian defence minister and Thailand's supreme military commander. On July 21, 2008, Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Ban and Thai Army commander Boonsrang Niempradit held talks in Thailand. The talks achieved no outcome and foundered over which map should be used to demarcate the border. [Source: Wikipedia, AP]

Politics Behind the Preah Vihear Dispute

Brendan Borrell wrote in Archaeology magazine: “Preah Vihear’s World Heritage List nomination offered a chance for Cambodia to reconcile with Thailand. In 2003, the two nations had agreed to jointly develop the temple and split the proceeds, with Thailand receiving 30 percent and Cambodia receiving 70. The two nations sought to officially list Preah Vihear as a transboundary site that would be cooperatively managed. [Source: Brendan Borrell, Archaeology magazine, February 11, 2013 |~|]

“Hope for cooperation at Preah Vihear diminished with the rise of the Yellow Shirts in Thailand—a nationalistic faction that ousted the moderate prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in a 2006 military coup. About two years later, the Yellow Shirts took to the streets to protest the imminent approval of Preah Vihear’s status as a World Heritage site, and called for a criminal investigation of members of the Thai government who supported the listing. Then, on July 15, 2008, a monk and two other Thais entered the disputed territory to plant a Thai flag near the temple. In a separate incident on the same day, a Thai army ranger stepped on an old land mine several miles away and lost a leg. The two incidents led to thousands of troops massing at the border, and the next three years were marked by deadly skirmishes at Preah Vihear and two other disputed sites near the border, Ta Krabey and Ta Moan. In May 2009, Thai heavy weapons fire started a blaze that burned down a Cambodian village near the stairs that lead up to gopura V, displacing 312 families. Both the Cambodians and the Thais have accused each other of laying new land mines at Preah Vihear. The Cluster Munitions Coalition, a civil society campaign that promotes adherence to an international ban on the use of cluster bombs, also concluded that the Thais had fired cluster bombs at the temple and neighboring villages during the clash in February 2011.

More recently, despite this record of conflict, there have been signs that a lasting peace may be possible. In July 2011, the Yellow Shirt government lost power, and the new Red Shirt government seems less interested in fighting over the site. That same month, the United Nation International Court of Justice ordered that both countries withdraw all their troops from the area, and, while there is still some military presence at the site, there has not been any recent shooting.

United Nations Involvement in Temple-Border Dispute Between Thailand and Cambodia

The Cambodian government filed a complain with the United Nations Security Council and asked the United Nations to intervene, calling the situation an “imminent state of war.” The Thai ambassador to the United Nations accused Cambodia of employing diplomatic “guerilla tactics” and claimed that Thailand was trying to seize “the entire common border.” The Thais objected to the application for World Heritage status by Cambodia and the use a map supplied by Cambodia. Nationalists in the countries took up the dispute as evidence of their government being soft on dealing with the temple. Nationalists in Cambodia called for a boycott of Thai goods

On July 22, 2008, Thailand rejected the assistance of ASEAN in resolving the border dispute. Thailand's statement came as ASEAN foreign ministers began a meeting in Singapore. The BBC reported that Cambodia had requested UN assistance in resolving the border dispute. The previous week the Cambodian government denied it had made such a call after similar news stories were published. [Source: Wikipedia]

On July 23, 2008, a spokesman for Cambodia's prime minister suggested that Cambodia may take the case to the International Court of Justice, as was done in 1962. On July 24, 2008, Cambodia announced it would postpone its request to the United Nations until the bilateral negotiation at Siem Reap in July 28 was finished. Cambodia and Thailand held the meeting on July 28 without any results. Reportedly, both sides are in favour of a troop withdrawal, beginning with Thailand's army; the date when Thailand would withdraw its troops was not agreed on, however. On August 1, 2008, The Nation newspaper in Thailand published an editorial criticizing Cambodia for calling on the international community to help resolve the Preah Vihear stand-off.

Temple-Border Dispute Between Thailand and Cambodia Expands to Ta Moan Thom, 153 Kilometers from Preah Vihear

By August 2008, the dispute had expanded to the 13th century Ta Moan temple complex 153 kilometers west of Preah Vihear, where Cambodia has accused Thai troops of occupying a temple complex on Cambodian land. The Thai foreign ministry had denied that any troops had moved into that area until several were killed there in April 2011.

On August 3, 2008, Cambodia claimed that Thailand occupied a second Angkorian-era temple complex, Ta Moan Thom and Ta Moan Touch on the border of Oddar Meanchey Province. On August 5, 2008, Kriengkrai Sampatchalit, Thailand Fine Arts Department director replied to Cambodia, claiming that "The Prasat Ta Moan Thom Temple is located just about 100 metres from the border on Thai soil." According to the Thai authorities, the Ta Moan Thom complex is in Thailand territory as evidenced by the Fine Arts Department's registration of the ancient ruin as a Thailand national archaeological site 73 years ago in 1935, despite the ruin being located 300 meters south of the border watershed ridgeline. Thai Army chief Anupong Paochinda said Thai troops would remain at Ta Moan Thom because the temple is in Thailand.

On August 7, 2008, ASEAN reported that both Thailand and Cambodia have withdrawn their troops from the Ta Moan Thom temple area to their original bases, according to AFP. On August 14, 2008, both nations' militaries agreed to reduce troop levels at Preah Vihear Temple prior to a meeting between their foreign ministers. In September 2008, Cambodia accused Thailand of sending troops to occupy the Ta Moan Thom and Ta Kwai temples. Thailand responded that the temples belong to them and are part of Surin province.

Deadly Clashes Between Thailand and Cambodia in the Preah Vihear Area in October 2008

Clashes in October 2008 left three Cambodian soldiers and one Thai soldier dead and 10 wounded on both sides. On October 3, 2008, Thai and Cambodian troops exchanged fire with each other on the disputed territory near the Preah Vihear Temple. The fighting lasted for nearly three minutes, wounding two Thai soldiers and one Cambodian soldier. On October 4, 2008, commanders of the two countries met at their disputed border area amid accusations that each side had caused a border skirmish on the previous day. On October 6, 2008, two Thai soldiers were wounded by landmines in the border area after allegedly wandering one kilometer into Cambodian territory. [Source: Wikipedia]

On October 13, 2008, Cambodian prime minister, Hun Sen, issued an ultimatum to Thailand to withdraw troops from a disputed border area. Thailand's Prime Minister, Somchai Wongsawat, said he had ordered the army to "take care of the situation so there is no violence." On October 14, 2008 in a televised interview, People's Alliance for Democracy leader (and future Foreign Minister) Kasit Piromya called Hun Sen "crazy", a "slave", and a "nak leng" (commonly translated as "gangster"). [Ibid]

On October 15, 2008, Cambodian and Thai forces opened fire on each other in a firefight that lasted for 40 minutes in the border area, leaving three Cambodian soldiers dead and two Cambodian and seven Thai soldiers wounded. One of the Thai wounded had sustained fatal injuries and died one week later. The Cambodians claimed to have captured 10 Thai soldiers during the battle, but the Thais denied this. Still, Reuters published photos of the soldiers being held by Cambodian troops Although commanders from both sides were trying to negotiate a cease fire, Thailand urged Thai nationals to leave Cambodia. On October 18, 2008, a Thai soldier was accidentally killed by his own weapon at Phu Ma Khua. [Source: Reuters, Wikipedia]

AFP reported: Gunfights broke out in the afternoon in a number of small patches of disputed land just a few kilometers (miles) from the 11th century Preah Vihear temple...After the fighting ended Cambodian and Thai officials traded barbs over who had started the violence..."The gunfire between Cambodia and Thailand was in Cambodia's territory. Thai troops opened fire at our troops first," Cambodian Foreign MinisteHor Namhong told reporters...nnouncing a complaint would be lodged with the UN Security Council...Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat said, "We are not the ones who ignited the violence.”...A Cambodian army official said at least 10 Thai soldiers stationed in a disputed area had surrendered — a claim denied by Thailand ...Thai TV showed military trucks loaded with tanks heading toward the border and troops setting up mortars while the Thai air force spokesman said before the clashes erupted that fighter jets were on stand-by.” [Source: AFP, October 15, 2008]

November 2008, while Thailand’s People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) political party and supporting Yellow Shirts occupied Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, PAD leader Kasit Piromya gave a speech in which he said "I will use Hun Sen‘s blood to wash my feet," recalling the historic incident where King Naresuan of Siam did the same to King Lovek of Cambodia. The siege ended when the Constitutional Court dissolved the government of Somchai Wongsawat, resulting in the rise to power of Abhisit Vejjajiva as Prime Minister and Kasit as Foreign Minister. Abhisit took a more hardline stance than his predecessor. In June 2009 he made a visit to Cambodia in an effort to resolver the dispute but didn’t help matter when he insisted that UNESCO review it decision of calling Preah Vihear a World heritage Site.

Fighting Between Thailand and Cambodia in the Preah Vihear Area in 2009 and 2010

Fighting in early 2009 left seven Thai and Cambodian troops dead. Cambodia demanded that Thailand pay $2 million in compensation for damage caused On April 2, 2009, a Thai soldier stepped on a mine and lost his leg in the border area. On April 3, 2009, fighting between Thai and Cambodian forces left at least three Thai soldiers and two Cambodian soldiers dead, another five Thai soldiers were wounded. Just days before this clash, Cambodian officials said that up to 100 Thai soldiers crossed into Cambodian territory and did not leave until Cambodian soldiers showed up and asked them to leave. The Royal Thai Army denied the claim and said that Thai soldiers had not gone anywhere they were not permitted to be. Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen then warned Thailand for the second time that if they (Thai soldiers) cross again, Thai soldiers would face fighting again with Cambodian soldiers. He said, "I tell you first, if you enter (Cambodian territory) again, we will fight. The troops at the border have already received the order."

On January 24, 2010, Cambodian and Thai forces opened fire on each again in the border area. As Thai Rangers shouted at Cambodian soldiers asking their purpose in crossing over to the area, the Cambodian soldiers fired M79 grenades and automatic rifles at them, Col. Nut said, which left two Thai soldiers wounded. On January 25, 2010, Cambodian and Thai troops exchanged gunfire twice at the contested border near Preah Vihear temple. A Cambodian soldier subsequently fired eight RPG (B-40) rockets into Thai territory. On January 30, 2010, soldiers from the two countries exchanged fire for two or three minutes.

On January 31, 2010, a Thai soldier was killed in clashes between Thai and Cambodian forces in the disputed border area. Troops from the two sides fought for about 15 minutes after about 20 Thai soldiers crossed into Cambodian territory and refused to leave when confronted by Cambodian soldiers. Cambodian Defense Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Chhum Socheat said one Thai soldier was killed, with Cambodian troops firing AK-47 assault rifles and B-40 rocket propelled grenades.

On April 16, 2010 Cambodian and Thai forces opened fire along their border about 150 kilometers west of Preah Vihear. The clash lasted for about 15 minutes, but there were no reports of casualties, Cambodian Defence Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat told AFP. "While our troops were patrolling the border, the Thai soldiers opened fire at them. So our troops fired back," he said. He said troops from both sides fired rockets and grenades as well as rifles, but calm returned after a meeting between Cambodian and Thai military commanders in the area.The Thai military confirmed the shoot-out."It was a misunderstanding and nobody was injured in the clash," said a Thai Army officer who asked not to be named.

Thai Yellow Shirts Found Guilty of Spying in Cambodia

In February, 2011 the BBC reported: “A Cambodian court has sentenced two members of a Thai nationalist movement to up to eight years in prison after finding them guilty of espionage.The two were among seven Thai politicians and activists charged with illegal entry after crossing into a disputed border area in December. The case coincides with an increase in tension along the Thai-Cambodia border. Both sides have accused the other of flying national flags over a disputed area near an ancient temple. [Source: BBC, February 1, 2011]

The Thai group were arrested on 29 December just inside the Cambodian border. They insisted they had crossed accidentally but were charged with illegal entry and trespassing on a restricted military zone. Five of the group were released but Veera Somkwamkid and his assistant Ratree Pipatanapaiboon faced the additional and more serious charge of espionage. Veera has been given eight years in prison while Ratree was sentenced to six years. They have one month to appeal against their sentence. "The decision is not acceptable," Veera told reporters at the court. "There is no justice. We will fight this in a higher court."

Veera is the leader of Thailand Patriot Network, a splinter group of the "yellow-shirt" People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) movement which shut down Bangkok's airports in 2008 in a bid to force the previous government of allies of ousted leader Thaksin Shinawatra to step down. The PAD has made nationalism, and in particular border disputes with Cambodia, a key part of its political platform. PAD activists joined the Patriot Network in staging protests in Bangkok calling for the pair's release and demanding that the government take a hard line with Cambodia.

In February 2013, MCOT News reported: Ratree Pipattanapaiboon was released in February 2013 on the occasion of the cremation of the country’s former king Norodom Sihanouk. Ratree arrived Bangkok while her fellow activist Veera Somkwamkid, the network coordinator, remains in Prey Sar Prison in Phnom Penh.Veera received a 6-month reduction of his jail term, leaving him to remain in jail for another five years. He insisted that he would not seek a royal pardon, instead he would ask for a transfer to serve the remainder of his jail term in Thailand. [Source: MCOT News, February 2, 2013]

Fighting Between Thailand and Cambodia in the Preah Vihear Area in February 2011

Fighting in February 2011 killed at least 11 people (three Thais and eight Cambodians), including soldiers and civilians, and 34 Thais and 55 Cambodians wounded. Both sides sent shells across the border. Hun Sen claimed Thai sells “have landed as far approximately 20 kilometers insides Cambodian territory.” Some shrapnel hit Preah Vihear Temple itself, chipping away at some of the temple’s walls but overall, journalists said, the damage was light. The border situation became more tense after a Cambodia court sentenced the two Thai activists Veera Somkwamkid and his assistant Ratree Pipatanapaiboon to eight and six years for spying. The two had entered the disputed border area in December 2010 and were arrested. Thais felt the sentences were unjustly harsh. [Source: Reuters, Kyodo, AFP]

Thailand's Foreign Minister Kasit said in his letter to the United Nations: "On February 4, 2011 at 15:20 hours, Cambodian troops opened fire at a Thai military post at Phu Ma Khua in Thai territory, using heavy weapons such as mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, recoilless rifles, long range artillery and multi-launcher rockets," said the minister. He added that on top of the deaths and about 13 wounded Thai, some 6,000 people had fled their villages on the Thai side of the border. "While Thailand has always exercised maximum restraint, Thai soldiers had no choice but to exercise the inherent right of self-defence" under the UN charter, the minister added in the letter, which was also released to AFP. [Source: AFP, February 9, 2011]

Early Fighting Between Thailand and Cambodia in the Preah Vihear Area in February 2011

On February 5, both sides exchanged firing again, starting from 06:25 (GMT+7) in three skirmishes at Chongdon-awn. The Thai army confirmed one Thai sergeant was killed by shrapnel and four soldiers wounded in the clash. Reuters reported: The neighbors fought with rocket-propelled grenades and guns for about 25 minutes from 6:15 a.m.In the afternoon, both sides signed a ceasefire with four conditions: 1) stop firing; 2) don't increase army at-site; ) . don't cause an accident; 4) more communication. [Source: Wikipedia, Reuters]

On February 6, renewed clashes occurred despite the ceasefire. According to reports, the fighting extended over 10 kilometers, from Phum Srol village to Phu Makhua mountain. In the morning Cambodia troops opened fire at Thai military personnel stationing at Phu Ma Khua and Phlan Yao as well as villagers in Thai territory using rocket propelled grenades. Several Thai villagers reportedly were injured. Baan Phum Srol school director Boonruam Pongsaphan stated that "I believe that this is no longer a misunderstanding. This is war because the Cambodian side is firing into residential areas, not military zones". Thousands of villagers from Kantharalak were evacuated. Cambodia claimed that more than 20 Thai soldiers died in the clashes. In the evening, Thai troops reportedly attacked Cambodian lines by trying to cross into Cambodia's territory. There were reports that Cambodian troops captured Don Tuan temple that is over 10 kilometers from the previous clash sites in Thai territory. It was also reported that the heavy shelling of Preah Vihear Temple by Thai forces caused part of it to collapse. Since the start of the fighting, Cambodian troops had been entrenched in the 900-year-old ruins of the temple in a camp made up of several bunkers. They had been positioned high on a ridge with a commanding view of the Cambodian plains but highly vulnerable to fire from Thai positions just a few hundred metres away. [Source: Wikipedia]

Reuters reported: Shelling and machinegun fire resounded in the morning in the 4.6-sq-km (two-sq-mile) contested area around the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple on a escarpment covered in jungle...Fighting in the area killed at least five people...The Cambodian government has said three of its nationals, including two soldiers, have been killed. Thai media say as many as 64 Cambodians died, quoting army sources...The Thai army says a soldier and a villager were killed and that at least 20 soldiers were wounded. Thousands have fled villages on the Thai side and hundreds of Cambodians have been evacuated, with each side accusing the other of firing first and of infringing on its territory. [Source: Reuters, February 7, 2011]

Brendan Borrell wrote in Archaeology magazine: “Archaeologist Pheng Sam Oeun was chatting with a park ranger at Preah Vihear when the artillery barrage started. It was 6:15 p.m. on February 4, 2011, and he had just finished his workday at the administrative center at the base of the mountain where the 1,100-year-old Khmer temple complex stands. In spite of the apparent danger, Pheng and the park ranger stood and watched the scene unfolding in the mountains above: flashes of light from the artillery fire accompanied by the crack of gun shots. “We would see the fire first, and then we heard the sounds,” says Pheng, who is in charge of preserving the site’s architecture and has been conducting small-scale excavations there. [Source: Brendan Borrell, Archaeology magazine, February 11, 2013 |~|]

“Half an hour after the fighting had begun, the shelling had grown so intense that Pheng and the park ranger made a run for their bunker, a section of concrete sewage pipe buried under an eight-foot mound of dirt. For three hours they hid there, slapping at malarial mosquitos and waiting for the skirmish to end. At one point, an 81 mm mortar round ricocheted off the stone threshold of an ornately decorated building, chipping it and killing the temple’s photographer. According to news reports, the attack wounded dozens of soldiers and civilians, and at least seven were killed. The incident touched off six months of intermittent fighting at the site. |~|

Later Fighting Between Thailand and Cambodia in the Preah Vihear Area in February 2011

On February 7, around two in the morning, the artillery fire finally stopped. However, sporadic fighting resumed later in the morning, after Thai troops attempted an operation to recover casualties from the previous day's heavy fighting. Clashes ceased again at 11 am. Both sides blamed each other for the incident. Cambodian civilians living near the contested area were evacuated by Cambodian authorities. The People's Alliance for Democracy called for Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to step down. Cambodia called for a UN Buffer Zone at the Thai border. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen described the situation as a "big skirmish or a small war". Later that day, independent sources stated the toll for the previous three days of fighting to be 10 killed: one soldier and one civilian from Thailand and four soldiers and four civilians from Cambodia. 34 Thais (30 soldiers and four civilians) and 45 Cambodians (soldiers and civilians) were wounded. The four captured Thai soldiers were released.

On February 8, there was no reported shooting incidents. However, Cambodian troops reportedly used the fragile ceasefire to dig into new positions and to set up sandbags. A Thai soldier, who was severely wounded during the shellings on the 6th, died of his wounds at Sapphasithiprasong Hospital. On February 9, Hun Sen officially called the recent clashes a war and said that "Thailand created this war. He also called Thai Prime Minister Abhisit a “cheat” and said was “responsible for the war." Hun Sen also said "Our war with Thailand will be taking long time". He also made it clear that there would be no more talks without a third party. Thai Foreign Minister Kansit called Hun Sen a “naughty boy.” In the meantime hundreds of Cambodian troops camped near the battleground, effectively strengthening their hold on the temple.

On February 15, a new skirmish occurred. The shooting incident lasted for a few minutes. Although local media reported that five Thai soldiers were wounded, the army stated that only one soldier was injured during the fighting. On February 16, the clashes intensified. During the day, three clashes occurred (5 am, 8 pm and 10 pm), but there were no reported casualties on either side. Thai Army spokesman Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd stated that the Cambodians started it all with the use of mortars and rocket-propelled-grenades, forcing the Thais to retaliate. Phay Siphan, a spokesman for Cambodia’s Council of Ministers, denied his country’s troops fired first. He said Thai soldiers attacked first. Cambodia said it wanted international help to prevent further fighting, while Thailand says the issue should be resolved bilaterally. The same day, unconfirmed reports claimed that Vietnamese tanks were moving towards the Cambodian–Thai border. However, Hun Sen strongly denied it.

In an agreement reached at a meeting of ASEAN in Jakarta, Cambodia and Thailand agreed to allow Indonesian observers to monitor disputed border territory by up to 40 military and civilian observers. "This is an observer team, not a peacekeeping or peace enforcement team. The observer team will be unarmed," Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said.

Civilian Effects and Cluster Bombs and the Fighting in February 2011

After the initial attack on February 4, 2011, the Cambodian army fired rockets using BM-21 multi-launch rocket systems into the town of Sao Thong Chai located about 5 kilometers from the border. As a direct result, primary schools, a local hospital, and 4–5 houses were destroyed. Only minutes before the hit, the local authority had issued a warning to the locals to evacuate and close the school. Despite this, there was one civilian fatality and at least 34 injured from the attack by Cambodian forces. There are reports that 22,000 Thai citizens had to evacuate and abandon their homes. The Cambodian government blamed the Thai army for firing onto the world's heritage temple causing severe damage. Whereas the Cambodian army settled that heritage temple as an army base. There is evidence, such as video and photo footage from Reuters showing that Cambodian forces used the temple as a military base and fired machine guns and artillery. Thai soldiers responded by firing rifles at the Cambodian soldiers hiding on the temple. However, there are only a few bullet scratches on the temple. AFP reported that Cambodian troops were stationed in the temple. [Source: Wikipedia +]

On February 4, a skirmish in a gray zone in the overlap of Thailand and Cambodia territory called Phu Makua hill started with an exchange of fire that lasted almost three hours. One Thai civilian in Ban Phumsrol village of Sisaket Province's Kantharalak district died instantaneously and seven or more buildings, including Phum Srol School, were hit by Cambodian artillery rounds. Three houses were set ablaze. The Cambodian government claimed 16–33 Thai soldiers were killed, 26 wounded and four captured, with two tanks destroyed. Thai news stations reported 64 Cambodian soldiers were killed and two tanks, 16 armoured vehicles, six artillery guns and four multiple launch rocket systems were destroyed. Independent sources confirmed that three Cambodians, including two soldiers, and a Thai villager were killed, also 10 Cambodian and eight Thai soldiers were wounded and four Thai soldiers were captured. +

Thai army was accused of using cluster munitions against Cambodia during the border fighting in February. Thailand at first denied the allegation, but later admitted it had fired the weapons. The Cluster Munition Coalition says that should not be a justification for using weapons which are banned by more than 100 countries. According to the campaigners, thousands of Cambodian villagers are now at risk of death or serious injury because of unexploded ordnance near their homes. +

Fighting Between Thailand and Cambodia in the Preah Vihear Area in April and May 2011

Fighting in April and May 2011 left 18 people dead (eight Thai troops, nine Cambodian soldiers and one Thai civilan). Thailand employed truck-mounted rocket launchers and helicopters, As many as 85,000 civilans sought refuge in temporary camps or temples. [Source: AFP]

On April 7, Thailand admitted using Dual-Purpose Improved Conventional Munition (DPICM) during the clash, which has been identified by the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) as a type of cluster munition. These contain up to hundreds of small grenades or "bomblets" that scatter over vast areas, and are banned by the majority of countries under the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Thailand has not signed the pact but has publicly pledged not to use such weapons. [Source: Wikipedia]

On April 22, 2011, a five-hour clash erupted along the border between Phanom Dong Rak District of Surin Province, Thailand and the Banteay Ampil District of Oddar Meanchey Province, Cambodia at the Ta Moan temple complex 153 kilometers west of Preah Vihear and at Ta Krabey temple complex 15 kilometers east of Ta Moan, with reports that both sides used rocket launchers, machine guns, and rifles. According to the Thai Army, the fighting erupted after dawn and continued for over half an hour. Four Thai and three Cambodian soldiers were reported killed and eight Thai and six Cambodian soldiers were reported wounded.

Reuters reported: Thai and Cambodian soldiers fought with rocket-propelled grenades and guns on their disputed border on Friday in a clash that killed six soldiers in the first major flare-up since a shaky ceasefire in February. Both countries evacuated thousands of villagers and accused each other of firing first in the thick, disputed jungle around Ta Moan and Ta Krabei temples in the northeastern Thai province of Surin, about 150 kilometers (93 miles) southwest of the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple, which saw a deadly stand-off in February. "Cambodia started attacking our temporary base with artillery fire and we responded to defend ourselves," said Lieutenant General Thawatchai Samutsakorn of the Thai army. Three Thai paramilitary rangers were killed and 13 wounded, said Thai army spokeswoman Sirichan Ngathong, adding that fighting began after Cambodian troops altered a bunker in the area and moved closer in violation of a ceasefire pact. "When warned, Cambodian troops stepped closer and started firing," she said. Cambodia suffered three fatalities, with six soldiers wounded. Defense ministry spokesman, Lieutenant General Chhum Socheat said at a news conference that Thai artillery shells had hit four Cambodian villages and Cambodian troops responded with rocket-propelled grenades. Soon after the clashes subsided, Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong sent a letter to the United Nations Security Council in New York, accusing Thailand of launching a "blatant" and "large-scale attack." A witness in one Thai village said occasional gunshots and shelling could still be heard hours after the clash. The heaviest fighting that broke out around daybreak had stopped after three hours, Chhum Socheat added. [Source: Reuters, April 22, 2011]

On April 23, 2011, the fighting with mostly long-distance shelling resumed about 6 am and halted by noon. A Cambodian defence ministry statement accused Thai aircraft of entering Cambodian airspace. The statement also said Thai forces had fired 75- and 105-mm shells loaded with poisonous gas into Cambodia's territory, an allegation that could not be independently verified and that Thailand rejected. A Cambodian field commander claimed that the "poison smoke" caused several soldiers who inhaled it to lose strength in their arms and legs. Col. Suos Sothea, deputy commander of the artillery unit, said that six rounds of cluster shells had landed in villages about 20 kilometers (12 mi) inside Cambodia, but caused no casualties since residents had already been evacuated. Col. Tawatchai Samutsakorn, commander of Thailand's 2nd Army Region, denied absolutely that cluster bombs or poison gas had been employed. Tawatchai said one Thai soldier died, bringing the two-day casualty toll to four dead and 17 wounded, and that 15,000 civilians had been evacuated from the area of fighting. Cambodia's Suos Sothea said three soldiers from his country had been killed, bringing Cambodia's two-day death toll to six. According to vice-president of the Cambodian National Committee for Disaster Management, Mr Nhim Vanda, roughly 5,000 residents had been evacuated to a safe shelter in the Samrong district of Banteay Meanchey province, some 30 kilometers from the fighting zone.

AP reported: Cambodia accused Thailand of damaging two ancient temples during three days of border clashes that killed 12 people, Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan said the two temple complexes, caught in crossfire over the weekend, had been hit by bullets and shells, but there was no word on how bad the damage was. The latest violence hit a disputed border area around the nearly 1,000-year-old Ta Moan and Ta Krabey temples, which date back to the Khmer empir Thailand authorities had no immediate comment on the allegation. [Source: Sopheng Cheang, Associated Press, April 24, 2011]

On April 25, 2011, the fighting continued, after an almost full-day break. On April 26, 2011, the fighting resumed for a fifth day. The fighting had now spread to a nearby temple. By this point, five Thai soldiers were killed and more than 35 wounded, and eight Cambodian soldiers were killed, 17 were wounded and one was missing. On April 27, 2011, a Thai civilian was reported to had been killed in the fighting.

On April 28, 2011, two more Thai soldiers were confirmed killed in the fighting. The same day, Thailand and Cambodia finally agreed upon a ceasefire. Cambodian spokesman Phay Siphan said that "We will abide by the ceasefire from now on and local commanders will meet regularly to avoid misunderstanding". On April 29, 2011, the ceasefire was broken, as one Thai soldier was confirmed killed in the fighting. A Thai military spokesmen said 11 Thai soldiers were hurt in the clashes with a total of 58 soldiers wounded since the start of the fighting. On April 30, the fighting resumed for a 9th day. However, there were no casualties.

On May 1, a Cambodian soldier was killed. The death toll had reached 17, including: nine Cambodian and seven Thai soldiers and one Thai civilian. 95 Thais, including 50 soldiers, and 18 Cambodian servicemen had been wounded since the start of the fighting. On May 2, the two sides engaged each other with automatic fire, but no casualties was reported. Cambodia also filed a case at the International Court of Justice on that day. On May 3, a Thai soldier was killed during skirmish in Surin, bringing the death toll on the Thai side to 12. Cambodia claimed Thailand had fired 50,000 shells during the clashes.

Finally Fighting Between Thailand and Cambodia Ends in May 2011

On May 4 2011, a ceasefire was agreed upon, and the border was re-opened for trade. On May 5, Thai prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva made it clear that he would not allow any international troops at Preah Vihear, unless Cambodia withdraw its forces from the disputed territory. He claimed the presence of troops in the area was a violation of the 2000 memorandum of understanding between Thailand and Cambodia. On May 7, Thailand and Cambodia agreed to appoint Indonesia as observers at the disputed border.

In July 2011, following a request from Cambodia to order Thai troops out of the area, the judges of the International Court of Justice by a vote of 11–5 ordered both countries immediately to withdraw their military forces from disputed areas straddling their border, and imposed restrictions on both their armies and police forces. A "provisional demilitarized zone" required Thai troops to leave positions they have long occupied, and Cambodia's to leave the temple's immediate vicinity. The court also called for officers from ASEAN to be allowed into the area to observe the cease-fire as called for by the UN Security Council last February.

Both sides said they were satisfied with the International Court of Justice decision. Thai foreign minister Kasit, speaking outside the court, said that a withdrawal of armed Cambodians from the temple complex "has been our consistent position." Further noting that the decision is binding on both countries, he added that Thailand would withdraw her forces and facilitate the observers' deployment, and further agreed to allow unhindered supplies to Cambodian civilian personnel at the temple complex. Cambodian foreign minister Hor Namhong said a demilitarised zone would mean "a permanent cease-fire … tantamount to a cessation of aggression" by Thailand. He also said he was satisfied with the dispatch of truce observers, which he said Cambodia had been seeking since last February, but made no reference to the demand for Cambodian troops to abandon the temple grounds.

The court said its ruling would not prejudice any final ruling on the where the border in the area between Thailand and Cambodia should fall. It could take the court many months or even years to reach that decision. But Abhisit said that Thai soldiers will not pull out from the disputed area until the military of both countries agree on the mutual withdrawal. "We need to talk to the Cambodians as the Cambodians also have to pull out their troops," Abhisit said.

On July 23, one Cambodian soldier was killed along the Cambodian-Thai border while another was wounded. A local military commander stated that the soldiers death was a result of clashes provoked by Thai troops. Pok Sophal, a commander for the Oddar Meanchey’s Trapaing Prasat district, stated that "We had an appointment for the meeting [between the two sides], and when we were walking, they opened fire at our soldiers". Thai spokesman Phay Siphan stated that the government was investigating the incident, but dismissed claims of armed clashes.

September 2011 Football diplomacy

A general election in Thailand in July 2011 resulted in a decisive victory for the Pheu Thai Party, with their leader, Ms. Yingluck Shinawatra, replacing Abhist as Prime Minister on August 5, 2011. Many United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD – also called "Red Shirts") members were elected to the House of Representatives ("MPs" in press reports.) Core UDD leaders arranged with Cambodian PM Hun Sen for a friendly football match to be played in Phnom Penh's Olympic Stadium on September 24. MP–and–UDD leaders Jatuporn Prompan and Natthawut Saikua were prohibited from leaving the country due to pending charges arising from the 2010 Thai political protests, so an attorney petitioned the Criminal Court for permission for them to travel to Cambodia for the game. [Source: Wikipedia +]

Former Thai premier Somchai Wongsawat led the Thai side. Cambodian premier Hun Sen led his side to a 10–7 victory, following which he announced that "the nightmare era" between Thailand and Cambodia was over. Former foreign minister Kasit Piromya rejoined that Hun Sen should not think that he could benefit from close ties with ousted former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra and the ruling Pheu Thai Party. "Don't think that you will get at our natural resources and territory by be-friending or playing football with the Pheu Thai MPs," he said. +

On December 15, armies of both sides exchanged gunfire along the border in Koh Kong Province. The armed clash erupted at 1:45 pm in Zone 329 in Ta Min mountain after a Thai helicopter tried to land in Cambodian territory. No injuries or deaths was reported. The source said the Cambodian soldiers opened fire to prevent the Thai helicopter entering Cambodia and that the Thai soldiers responded with heavy gunfire. It was the first armed clash since Thailand's new government was formed in August. +

Thai, Cambodian Troops Leave Disputed Area

An agreement was reached in December 2011 to withdraw troops from the disputed area. In July 2012, Al-Jazeera reported: “Cambodia and Thailand has begun withdrawing their military personnel from land near a 11th century temple, which has been at a centre of a dispute between the neighbouring countries.The move is in compliance with an order from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for the two countries to withdraw their troops from land surrounding the Preah Vihear temple.According to a press release from the Cambodian government, the withdrawal of troops was the "first step of troop redeployment" from the arena around the Preah Vihear temple. Cambodia withdrew almost 500 troops, while Thailand moved back their 400 of their troops as well. [Source: Al-Jazeera, July 18, 2012]

The troop withdrawal from both sides from the disputed land around the temple comes one year after the ICJ ruled that a demilitarised zone would be monitored by observers from the Association of South East Asian Nations. This redeployment should improve the atmosphere on the border," Thai Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat said after observing the withdrawal. The court has also ordered that independent Indonesian observers should be sent into the area to try to keep the peace.

The withdrawal was made after Hun Sen, Cambodia's prime minister, and his Thai counterpart, Yingluck Shinawatra, met to agree to a redeployment of military personnel in the Provisional Demilitarised Zone (PDZ) surrounding the Preah Vihear temple.

Cambodia Doubles Military Budget after Thai Clash

In October 2008, Reuters reported: “Impoverished Cambodia has doubled its 2009 military budget to $500 million (311 million pounds) following this month's border clash with Thailand, officials said, an increase that is likely to anger its donors. The National Assembly is expected to approve the new budget next week, with the military accounting for 25 percent of all spending, said Cheam Yeap, head of its finance commission. [Source: Reuters, October 29, 2008]

"This incident has awoken us to the need for our soldiers to be better equipped. We cannot sit and watch Thai troops encroach on our border," he told Reuters. "Our army needs to be more organised, better trained, with newer bases and well-fed troops."

At roughly 100,000 men, Cambodia's armed forces are a third the size of Thailand's, but remain very large for one of Asia's poorest nations. For years, international donors have been trying to get Phnom Penh to demobilise thousands of ageing soldiers, many of them former Khmer Rouge guerrillas, to free up more cash for investment in health and education. In the two weeks since the clash, local army units say they have recruited 3,000 men despite Prime Minister Hun Sen saying he wants a negotiated settlement with Bangkok to disputed stretches of border.

International Court Decides in Cambodia’s Favor in Temple Dispute with Thailand

In November 2013, Mike Corder of Associated Press wrote: “Cambodia, not Thailand, has sovereignty over a disputed promontory around a 1,000-year-old temple, the U.N.'s highest court ruled in a unanimous decision on a long-simmering border dispute. The International Court of Justice said a 1962 ruling by its judges gave Cambodia sovereignty over the Preah Vihear promontory and Thailand is now obligated to withdraw any military or police forces stationed there. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen welcomed the ruling, saying it "gives the frontier between the two countries a clear borderline." He said both countries have agreed to work to maintain peace at the historic temple. He told Cambodian troops to stay on their side of the border and "avoid any activity that would cause tensions." [Source: Mike Corder, Associated Press, November 11, 2013 +=+]

“Thai Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said the verdict offered "satisfactory results to both sides" and promised the two neighbors will work together to implement it. In a televised address, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said stressed the need for cooperation with Cambodia. "Thailand and Cambodia share an 800-kilometer (500-mile) border," she said, adding that the Southeast Asian neighbors "have to rely on each other for prosperity." +=+

“Cambodia went back to the court in 2011, following several clashes between its army and Thai forces. The court created a demilitarized zone around the temple after fighting left about 20 dead and displaced thousands of people, but subsequent talks about withdrawing troops went nowhere. Soldiers from both countries were seen near the temple over the weekend ahead of the judgment and villagers feared the ruling could trigger new military clashes. +=+

“The court in The Hague did not draw any new maps but said the promontory is bordered by steep slopes on most sides and to the north a border drawn up in 1907 by the French. In Srah Kdol, a Cambodian village 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the temple, several families had left ahead of the verdict and others had dug bunkers for protection. Cambodian Mann Vanna, 55, said he was happy with the decision. "This ruling will end the bad blood that has flowed from the people of both countries. Thailand has to respect it," he said, his eyes filling with tears. +=+

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Tourism of Cambodia, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

Last updated May 2014

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