Sunday, July 19, 2009

Cambodia Determines to Defend Its Territorial Integrity

BY BUTH REAKSMEY KONGKEA

The Royal Government of Cambodia will defend Preah Vihear Temple and Cambodian territorial integrity though all measures will be taken to avoid the use of military forces.

Phay Siphan, Secretary of State and Spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said that the Government is determined to defend Cambodia, Her independence and sovereignty. He said that his government would work hard and strive to defend and preserve Preah Vihear temple, maintaining it as a World Heritage site under Cambodian stewardship.

“The government is determined to defend our nation and we will not lose one millimeter of it to foreign nations,” he told reporters at a press conference on July 15 at the Council of Ministers. He was speaking on the first anniversary of the Thai incursion at Keo Sekhakiri Svara pagoda located in Preah Vihear province.

Siphan continued to say that Cambodia still looks for a peaceful resolution to the matter based on respect for sovereignty and the rules of civility. He also noted that the inclusion of the temple of the World Heritage list was not the cause but an attempt to legitimize ancient Thai claims to Cambodian land.

Siphan claimed that the presence of Thai troops at Wat Keo Sekhakiri Svara, in Sambok Khmom and other areas was also a product of internal disputes and Thai politics. He also requested that the term “disputed zone between Thailand and Cambodia” be changed to “Cambodian territorial zone claimed by Thailand” in all future official communiqu├ęs and media broadcasts.

He also drew attention to the fact that the Thai troops involved in last year’s aggression wore black uniforms similar to those worn by Khmer Rouge flunkies. This, he said added insult to the injury caused to Cambodian sovereignty.

He emphasized that since the Temple’s listing in 2008, Cambodia has fulfilled its management obligations at the site. There is no cause for a “review”, “joint listing”, “joint management”, or “de-listing,” as suggested by the Thai party on various occasions.

The two countries’ leaders have recently agreed to re-deploy their troops away from the temple by the end of July 2009, said Siphan. He added that since the Thai incursion, fighting had occurred on three occasions, the most recent of which destroyed village markets located along the border near Preah Vihear Temple.

According to the Cambodian National Commission to UNESCO, one week after the Committee’s unanimous decision, Thai troops crossed the border with Cambodia and moved toward to the Temple. This incursion is also a violation of the 1962 decision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which required Thailand to remove its armed forces stationed in Cambodian territory near the Temple. In response, Cambodia exercised its obligation to defend Cambodian territory, an action that can only be understood as a response to the Thai militarization of the area.

Thailand justified its invasion based on a map of the border contradicting the map used by the ICJ in its famous 1962 decision. Unlike the ICJ map, the Thai map places the border of the two countries at the immediate edge of the Temple structures.

For more than 40 years, Thailand did not openly dispute the ICJ border. However, it dusted off the unilateral map Justin time to legitimize expansion into Cambodia. The map was made by the Royal Thai Survey Department during the period of Khmer Rouge influence. It was marked “secret,” apparently to hide their international ambitions. ////

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