More on the escalating conflict over Preah Vihear

Seriously folks – cool out.

Agence France Press reported 400 Thai troops this morning on the border, matched by 800 Cambodian troops. They also report, as if these numbers didn’t already indicate it, that the ‘row is worsening.’

PM Samak is blaming three Thai individuals – “a man, a woman, and a Buddhist monk” (n.b., I love the way monks are ungendered in such stories) for illegally crossing the border to reclaim Preah Vihear for Thailand. These three are presumably back in Thailand. Samak isn’t answering questions on why the Thai soldiers haven’t followed suit.  Surely 400 soldiers could quietly and safely retrieve three citizens who have committed a border crime?

The soldiers aren’t the ones committing violence – yet. Instead, the clashes seem to be limited to opponents within Thailand – PAD hypernationalists on the one side, who came in a caravan at least 5,000 strong, mostly from Bangkok, and local Si Sa Ket villagers, who are rightly pissed off that their land and livelihoods are being hijacked by these thugs. Pictures here, including a few of a woman who placed her body on the highway to stop the convoy. More than 10 were injured in scuffles. The PM’s response? Hand the problem over to the Army and the PAD – the folks causing the problem. Smart one, Samak.

Thai soldiers have occupied the Cekakiri Svarak Buddhist temple in the Preah Vihear temple compound. Cambodian monks are living under the shadow of these guys. More photos here.

At the same time, at least 300 Khmer workers from Cambodia have returned from their jobs in Thailand; they’re afraid of being attacked on the street.

Giles Ji Ungpakorn, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn, has a thoughtful – and in the Thai climate, brave – short piece in the New Statesmen. It’s worth reading in its entirety. He doesn’t mention Preah Vihear by name, but it seems to me to be an attempt to remove Buddhism from any ability to mobilize nationalist sentiment. Here’s a snippet:

The repressive Thai and Burmese states use Buddhism to legitimise their rule. The Burmese generals claim that they are good Buddhists. But the population, including Buddhist monks, can rise up against them. The Laotian communists of the “Pathet Lao” movement can use Buddhism to justify socialism and the ultra-right-wing Thai priest Kittiwutto can say that “killing communists is not a sin”.


One thought on “More on the escalating conflict over Preah Vihear

  1. erikwdavis says:

    One of the better summaries of the background of the current Preah Vihear border crisis can be found at the NY Herald. Nothing there yet about Cambodia’s official United Nations complaint regarding Thailand’s invasion (which Thailand mirrors back at Cambodia, claiming they are invading Thailand), the guns being drawn overnight, &c., but a more thorough approach than the piecemeal stuff that’s been coming out so far.

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