Week 566 – 2008-06-29: Preah Vihear Still In The Headlines

Posted on 29 June 2008. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 566 |

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 566

The fact that I am still in Thailand provided me with the special opportunity to observe also what is happening in the Thai media – in newspapers and on TV.

First some special events, which received quite some attention, and some included court actions.

The secretary-general of the Office for the Prevention and Suppression of Corruption in the State Sector was accused to have insulted the former ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and after he had refused to appear before the police, an arrest warrant was issued – which was finally overturned by an Appeals Court.

The chief of the National Police was was removed from his position, and a brother-in-law of the former ousted prime minister was moved to the position of deputy police chief, so that the would become the next chief of the police.

The board of Thai Airways International dismissed the president of the airline, and wanted to replace him with an executive vice-president (who happened to be a former classmate of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School) – but after protests from employees who saw this as a political ploy, the chairperson of the board reversed the board decision on the same day.

The Public Health Minister had dismissed the chairperson of the board of the Government Pharmaceutical Organization, who had been a key advocate of “compulsory licensing” – a legal practice by which governments can, under certain conditions, initiate the production of medical drugs patented in other countries – for essential drugs against AIDS, cancer, and heart diseases, resulting in some cases in prices of only one tenth of the imported products. But this is neither welcome by foreign companies producing, nor by national companies trading in the more expensive drugs. The Administrative Court ordered the reinstatement of the former chairperson of the Government Pharmaceutical Organization. He had been replaced by a former manager of the national football team. – It is remembered that the ousted former prime minister controls the Manchester United football club; he is also the chairperson of the Golfers Association of Thailand.

Three lawyers of the ousted prime minister were jailed for six month by the Supreme Court for attempted bribery and contempt of the court. They had visited the court to discuss when the former prime minister and his wife would appear at the court, and when leaving, he lawyers left a lunch box with Baht 2 million in cash – about US$60,000 – “for the court officials.” When they opened it, a judge happened to walk by and saw it. The jailed lawyer said he just mistook the box – his wife had prepared some chocolate for the court staff, and he, by mistake, took the other box with the two million. Now the police is investigating where the money came from.

I mention these happenings as the have to be seen as a general context for the present political climate in Thailand, where the last week was dominated by a three days debate in parliament – live on TV – about the performance of the government’s first four months in office. The government had at first tried to refuse to put such a debate onto the agenda, but after the Government House had been surrounded by an estimated crowd of 25,000 persons of the People’s Alliance for Democracy, the debate was on.

The debate was well organized, with specific subjects to be addressed by the assigned members of the opposition: fuel and rice price policy changes, lack of transparency in government purchase decisions, but the most intensive debate was related to the Preah Vihear temple – which was led by Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva, the leader of the opposition, questioning the performance of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej and Minister of Foreign Affairs Noppadon Pattama, a former lawyer and spokesperson of the ousted prime minister. As it had happened before, the question was raised whether the final Cambodian-Thai solution is related to the meeting for a party of golf between the former Thai prime minister after he was ousted, and the Cambodian prime minister in Siem Reap – but any relations between the two events was denied.

While many arguments were exchanged, nobody in this debate questioned the 1962 International Court of Justice decision that the Preah Vihear temple belongs to Cambodia. But a lot of questions were raised about the way in which the present situation was developed in secrecy, about accepting the map proposed by Cambodia relating to the area around the temple complex which isolates the temple from its wider surroundings, and about the implications of the final understandings achieved between the Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs and his Cambodian counterpart, the Minister in Charge of the Council of Ministers.

The 1962 International Court of Justice decision was reprinted in full in the press, as well as the different maps – old and new.

Though I am at present not in Cambodia, I inquired with several contacts, but I got the impression that newspapers in Cambodia have not made the 1962 decision of the International Court of Justice available. The original is in English and French, and I was not able to find any reference to a Khmer translation as the basis for the public debate in Cambodia, not in the press and not on the Internet – if they exist, we would be happy to share this information more widely.

As this and subsequent texts have not been easily available, it is to a certain degree understandable that some comments are missing the reality, in the press, and in some quite aggressive comments on the Internet:

“Having The Hague Court Verdict, Cambodia Should Not Discuss Anything with Thailand!” – but some sections of the border in the are have specifically not been defined in 1962.

“The Cambodian government seems to fall into a trap of Thailand by listing only the body of the Preah Vihear Temple and the areas which extend 30 meters from the temple” – but this map was submitted from the Cambodian side, and only reluctantly accepted by the Thai cabinet on 17 June 2008.

“We would like to give the recommendation to the Cambodian government,… being an independent nation with patriotism, the government has to… list the Preah Vihear Temple as a World Heritage Site unilaterally” – but the Cambodian government representatives had already accepted, in 2007, during the UNESCO World Heritage Site Committee, that “Cambodia and Thailand agree that Cambodia will propose the site for formal inscription on the World Heritage List at the 32nd session of the World Heritage Committee in 2008 with the active support of Thailand.”

In response to a widely circulated scholarly legal argumentative interpretation of the 1962 verdict by the lawyer Mr. Tuch Bora, presenting his understanding of “Thai’s Misunderstanding of the World Court Judgment of 15 June 1962” – many anonymous aggressive Khmer responses were received, implicating the Thai King who has not spoken on this issue, saying “The Siams are mislabeled by their king who rewrite their history like he see fits” and many more violent ones, one is hesitant to quote.

Finally, I was led to a 47 pages comprehensive, illustrated documentation – in English and French – dated “May 2008”: “The Temple of Preah Vihear. Proposed for the inscription in the World Heritage List (UNESCO).”

Addition – 17 July 2008:
The above was correct at the time of writing – 29 June 2008 – and did provide a direct access to the English version of submission for the proposed inscription in the World Heritage list.

It turned out later that the above link did not work any more – the Press Office of the Council of Ministers had made some changes: while the site still says that these documents from some unspecified day in May 2008 ( ឧសភា ឆ្នាំ ២០០៨ ) are accessible here, there is now a selection of documents in four languages available for download.

The four versions can be downloaded here – but the Adobe Acrobat Reader program is necessary to see the contents of these files published by the government. The English version is introduced as “Edited by the Council of Ministers June 2008”

English 4.24 MB, French 6.52 MB, Español 3.86 MB, (العربية)M4.51 MB Arabic 4.51 MB

If you cannot get direct access by clicking on the links above, you will find the four texts here:

http://www.pressocm.gov.kh/publishing/Preah_Vihear_English.pdf

http://www.pressocm.gov.kh/publishing/Preah_Vihear_French.pdf

http://www.pressocm.gov.kh/publishing/Spanish.pdf

http://www.pressocm.gov.kh/publishing/Arabic.pdf

A version of this text in the Khmer language is not published by the Press Office of the Council of Ministers here.

In 10 chapters it describes the location, the cultural and legal history, and maps and photos, with the major related documents.

It does contains also the joint Cambodian-Thai press release from 6 May 2008, when the Permanent Secretary of the Foreign Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand met with its Cambodian counterpart in Phnom Penh, saying among others:

“The Kingdom of Cambodia strongly stresses that the inscription of the Temple of Preah Vihear is without prejudice to the demarcation work of the Cambodian-Thai Joint Commission on Demarcation for Land Boundary (JBC) between Cambodia and Thailand; and the zoning (“Zonage” in French) stipulated in the document submitted by Cambodia to UNESCO shall not be considered as boundary line.”

It does not contain the text of the Joint Communique signed on 18 June 2008 by Minister Sok An and Minister Noppadon Pattama in Paris, and as witness co-signed by the Assistant Director-General for Culture of UNESCO, nor does it have the appended map, signed and presented by the Cambodian site, showing not only the temple area, but also the adjacent areas 1, 2, and 3, about which the text says “The Kingdom of Cambodia accepts that the Temple of Preah Vihear be nominated for inscription on the World Heritage List without at this stage a buffer zone on the northern and western areas of the Temple.” The map which we presented in the editorial of the Mirror on 22.6.2008 is a graphical representation of this position accepted by Cambodia. The numbered areas are part of the map presented by Cambodia. This information, including the map, are quoted from the Bangkok Post.

The coming days and weeks will show what happens next.

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[…] Week 566 – 2008-06-29: Preah Vihear Still In The Headlines […]

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[…] * សូម​អញ្ជើញ​អាន​វិចារណកថា​សម្រាប់… * សូម​ជម្រាប​ថា​ក្រៅ​ពី​ការ​អាន​ព្រឹត្តិបត្រ​ព័ត៌មាន កញ្ចក់​សង្គម ជា​ភាសា​ខ្មែរ​ លោក​ អ្នក​ក៏​អាច​អាន​ផង​ដែរ​នូវ​ព្រឹត្តិបត្រ​ព័ត៌មាន​ The Mirror ជា​ភាសា​អង់គ្លេស​ ។ * ដើម្បី​ជ្រាប​​នូវ​ពី​ព័ត៌មាន​ស្ដី​អំពី​​ស្ត្រី​ក្នុង​សង្គម​ខ្មែរ​ សូម​អញ្ជើញ​​​ទស្សនា​តំបន់​បណ្ដាញ​កម្មវិធី​ស្ត្រី​នៃ​អង្គការ​វិទ្យាស្ថាន​បើក​ទូលាយ​​​ ដោយ​ចុច​តំណ​ខាង​ក្រោម​នេះ!​​ សូម​អរគុណ​! http://women.open.org.kh/ * ត្រឡប់​ទៅ​ខាងលើ​វិញ […]

[…] * សូម​អញ្ជើញ​អាន​វិចារណកថា​សម្រាប់… * សូម​ជម្រាប​ថា​ក្រៅ​ពី​ការ​អាន​ព្រឹត្តិបត្រ​ព័ត៌មាន កញ្ចក់​សង្គម ជា​ភាសា​ខ្មែរ​ លោក​ អ្នក​ក៏​អាច​អាន​ផង​ដែរ​នូវ​ព្រឹត្តិបត្រ​ព័ត៌មាន​ The Mirror ជា​ភាសា​អង់គ្លេស​ ។ * ដើម្បី​ជ្រាប​​នូវ​ពី​ព័ត៌មាន​ស្ដី​អំពី​​ស្ត្រី​ក្នុង​សង្គម​ខ្មែរ​ សូម​អញ្ជើញ​​​ទស្សនា​តំបន់​បណ្ដាញ​កម្មវិធី​ស្ត្រី​នៃ​អង្គការ​វិទ្យាស្ថាន​បើក​ទូលាយ​​​ ដោយ​ចុច​តំណ​ខាង​ក្រោម​នេះ!​​ សូម​អរគុណ​! http://women.open.org.kh/ * ត្រឡប់​ទៅ​ខាងលើ​វិញ […]

[…] * សូម​អញ្ជើញ​អាន​វិចារណកថា​សម្រាប់… * សូម​ជម្រាប​ថា​ក្រៅ​ពី​ការ​អាន​ព្រឹត្តិបត្រ​ព័ត៌មាន កញ្ចក់​សង្គម ជា​ភាសា​ខ្មែរ​ លោក​ អ្នក​ក៏​អាច​អាន​ផង​ដែរ​នូវ​ព្រឹត្តិបត្រ​ព័ត៌មាន​ The Mirror ជា​ភាសា​អង់គ្លេស​ ។ * ដើម្បី​ជ្រាប​​នូវ​ពី​ព័ត៌មាន​ស្ដី​អំពី​​ស្ត្រី​ក្នុង​សង្គម​ខ្មែរ​ សូម​អញ្ជើញ​​​ទស្សនា​តំបន់​បណ្ដាញ​កម្មវិធី​ស្ត្រី​នៃ​អង្គការ​វិទ្យាស្ថាន​បើក​ទូលាយ​​​ ដោយ​ចុច​តំណ​ខាង​ក្រោម​នេះ!​​ សូម​អរគុណ​! http://women.open.org.kh/ * ត្រឡប់​ទៅ​ខាងលើ​វិញ […]

[…] Week 566 – 2008-06-29: Preah Vihear Still In The Headlines […]

I made an addition on 17 July 2008 – as the web addresses referenced had some quite interesting changes. The changes are marked in the middle of the text with the date of 17 July 2008.

Norbert Klein – Editor


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