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Different Voices Aiming at the Same Goal?

By: Norbert Klein Posted: February-28-2011 in
Norbert Klein

The Mirror, Vol. 15, No. 705

Among the many materials which had come to my computer during the period of interruption were also several Comments to "Defusing Tensions by Going to the Agreements Achieved" from The Mirror of Wednesday, 16.2.2011. When The Mirror was started in 1997, we had the hope that it would make such discussions possible – especially discussions on issues of common concern where there is a variety of interpretations and opinions, but there is also a common effort to find clarity where different, maybe even contradicting, information is available.

Thanks to everybody who participates in such exchanges – that is the way to work out clarity related to facts, understanding, and maybe even positions to take. I really appreciate the different Comments received.

The following Comment – slightly cut shorter - seems to well represent many people:

Maybe the Mirror has followed closely what is going on, but like generally public I have read news from time to time and I feel that Thailand always accused Cambodia of what is going wrong in Thailand since the down fall of Thaksin.

That is true, and that is also part of the problem: there is this widespread feeling – but it is important to verify, wherever possible, on which facts such feelings are based, and if there are additional facts which also need to be considered.

I don't remembered when exactly, but I am sure it was reported in the Cambodia Daily that the Thai army accused Cambodia of supplying weapon to the Muslim insurgents in their southern provinces. Several Cambodian Muslims were arrested at the border checkpoint while they were on the way to work in Malaysia. There were also reports of Cambodia supplying weapon to the Red-shirt and training them to create chaos. I cannot saying these reports are wrong or right. But as I am Cambodian, for the first reaction I could not believe in this kind of accusation...

I also cannot say whether these pieces of information are wrong or right. But I remember what The Mirror had reported the following on 15.8.2010:

On 4.7.2010, The Mirror carried reports about allegations in the Thai press that two Thai citizens, supposed to have been involved in planting a bomb in Bangkok, fled to Cambodia. The Press and Quick Reaction Unit at the Council of Ministers rejected such reports, calling on the Thai government to end what it described as "a malicious campaign to fault Cambodia..." The Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mr. Koy Kuong said that these allegations were "stupid." – "Cambodia completely denies this kind of provocative information." – "They raise incorrect information. When Thailand has problems, they blame Cambodia." – "If Thailand denies that they have accused Cambodia, then they should make corrections in all their media that have published such false information," he said. "I think this is a play from the Thai government officials, who speak out without taking responsibility for their comments."

On 5.7.2010, one day later, The Mirror reported: "Cambodia Will Hand Over Two Terrorist Suspects to Thai Embassy Officials on Monday" – they had been arrested in Siem Reap. – Thai government officials did not have to apologize for "a malicious campaign" of "provocative information" and to correct wrong, "stupid" allegations, and they did not have to make corrections in all their media. While Thai government officials had been accused by their Cambodian counterparts of speaking out without taking responsibility for their comments. We are not aware that an apology for the accusations against the Thai side was published in all Cambodian media, that had carried the – now proved groundless – accusations against the related Thai voices.

I repeat this here, because I think this is serious. Probably the Cambodian government officials spoke "as they are Cambodian" - but they were wrong, and though they could not know who may have slipped into the country, they used strong and quite impolite words, instead of admitting the obvious at that time: "We do not yet know - the authorities will check."

I can see the government is working hard to solve border problem with Thailand and it needs some encouragement. If everyone think like the Mirror, Cambodia would not dare to confront Thailand. Well, however there some good points that the Mirror sorts out mistakes made by the Press and Quick Reaction Unit (PRU). I hope the government should change it to Moderate Reaction, so that the unit has time to analyze before issuing any statements.

Thanks for this Comment. The Mirror does not "think" in a specific way – though I have been accused that I think pro-Thailand and anti-Cambodia. But some people also told me that my writing is pro-Cambodia, because I point to facts where a more careful handling of facts would be appropriate. And I agree: less emotion is called for, and more moderation.

To state that there is no clear international frontier line between Cambodia and Thailand ignores the obvious fact. Both parties recognize the Franco-Siamese treaty. Franco-Siamese Mixed Commission carried out demarcation and mapping. The indication of the line of the watershed in Article 1 of the 1904 Treaty was itself no more than an obvious and convenient way of describing a frontier line objectively, though in the general terms...

"To state that there is no clear international frontier line between Cambodia and Thailand ignores the obvious fact. Both parties recognize the Franco-Siamese treaty." - Here I repeat again the same question I have raised in The Mirror already so often. If there really were a clear international frontline between Cambodia and Thailand, why did both governments sign the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the Kingdom of Thailand and the Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia on the Survey and Demarcation of Land Boundary, declaring in the document their desire and agreement to survey and to demarcate the land boundary between both countries.

And there follows a long list of historical documents for reference, which have not yet resulted in present mutual agreements. The obvious fact is that also the Cambodian side has agreed that there is no clear international frontline.

In spite of claims that "Thailand" is claiming the Temple of Preah Vihear, when some Thai newspapers or some Thai groups say so, all recent Thai governments – under the prime ministers Somchai Wongsawat, Samak Sundaravej, and Abhisit Vejjajiva - have not rejected the following wording of the decision of the International Court of Justice of 1992: "For these reasons, by nine votes to three, finds that the Temple of Preah Vihear is situated in territory under the sovereignty of Cambodia."

Obviously both governments consider the surrounding 4.6 sq-km as not yet finally clarified – otherwise the Cambodian government representatives would not have signed documents saying that a joint border commission has to find solutions. Whatever older documents said: both – both! - governments agreed that clarification is necessary.

In addition to the mutually agreed upon Memorandum of Understanding from 2000 and the tasks still to be completed, there was the opinion discussed since some time ago that the International Court of Justice might be asked to clarify the meaning of it's 1962 decision. Now there seems to be something going on – but, unfortunately, I could not find authoritative information. But I share what I found. The blog Khmerization said, referring to the newspaper Kampuchea Thmey:

A senior Cambodian government officials has secretly told Kampuchea Thmey that Cambodia has hired 3 foreign lawyers to prepare a legal case to lodge with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to ask the court to re-interpret the ICJ's 1962 verdict which adjudicated to give ownership of Preah Vihear temple to Cambodia. The official said that those 3 lawyers are from France, the United Kingdom and Australia.

And the VOV Radio The Voice of Vietnam website reported:

Cambodia Appeals ICJ to Clarify Verdict on Disputed Temple

The Cambodian government on 24 February 2011 officially asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to explain The Hague’s verdict in 1962 on the sovereignty of the 11th century Preah Vihear temple.

The Cambodian news agency AKP quoted Prime Minister Hun Sen as saying that the country officially sent its proposal together with all relevant documents to the ICJ, appealing this organ to clarify the 1962 verdict that recognizes Cambodia’s sovereignty on the Preah Vihear temple.

Earlier, PM Hun Sen said that Cambodia would obey the ICJ’s decision and suggested Thailand respect the decision.

According to the Cambodian government leader, the Cambodia-Thailand conflict cannot end with a ceasefire order or observers from the third side which may just ease tension while awaiting for a comprehensive solution for the two countries' border area...

Why is it so difficult for the public to know what is going on, and in which spirit? There is some "secret" information from some government officials to Kampuchea Thmey – but is this true?

There is some official and not secret information – but originating from a Vietnamese government source – but is it correct? The published text speaks only about the Temple of Preah Vihear – which is not contested – but the text from Vietnam does not mention specifically the contested area of 4.6 sq-km.

On the same date of 24 February 2011, mentioned in the news from Vietnam about the effort by the Cambodian government to get a legal clarification, the Cambodia Government News Agency AKP - Agence Kampuchea Presse – published a lengthy article under the headline Abhisit Vejjajiva’s Beating the War Drum.

  • Let’s dissect this arrogant statement and see, what does it mean and what does it stand among all civilized nations of ASEAN
  • Thailand must have the courage to tell ASEAN and the World Community that it is a bully boy
  • Abhisit Vejjajiva is beating the war drum louder and louder
  • ASEAN and the World Community have witnessed the way Thailand treats ASEAN and the World Community…with contempt and the way Thailand behaves - like a snake in the grass
  • it is high time for ASEAN and the World Community to bring the "wild bull" into the stable,
  • please stop the imminent war of aggression of Thailand against Cambodia, before it is ignited by Thai militarists and insane politicians.

Two quite different ways where Cambodian government institutions are quoted, addressing the same problem, on the same day.

I agree fully with the question raised in one Comment received:

Unfortunately it is life and death situation for people at the border. Is it time to work smarter?

Norbert KLEIN

First of all an explanation for the interruption.

The hard-disk of my computer started slowly to become full – but when I bought a new, bigger one, there were problems to set it up and to transfer all data so that it would work again. Before this succeeded, I left for Yangon to participate in their second BarCamp. Last year it hat 2,700 participants (40% women) – this year there were 3,200 – the largest non-religious and non-political meetings ever in the country, and anyway the largest BarCamps held in any country. As far as I know, a BarCamp in India had 1,000 members, the largest ever – outside of Myanmar.

Since I am back, I have again access to my computer – and to about 700 mails which had arrived in the meantime.

Norbert Klein

This article was first published by The Mirror, Vol. 15, No. 705 – Sunday, 27.2.2011
Have a look at the last editorial - you can access it directly from the main page of The Mirror.

Norbert Klein is the Editor of The Mirror – The Mirror carries regular reports and comments from Cambodia - More about The Mirror

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