Friday, November 13, 2009

International relations

Relations between Cambodia and Thailand have been strained for some time....not just recently but since Cambodia's independence in the 1950s and even before that. To put it mildly Cambodian people generally are very unsympathetic to Thais (or Vietnamese for that matter but that is a different story) so they love a story to stir up the tension.

Recently it was the dispute concerning 900 year old Preah Vihear temple on the border. The International Court of Justice in 1962 awarded the temple to Cambodia. The Thais didn't like that too much but what really twisted the knife was the fact that in July 2008 Unesco listed Preah Vihear as a World Heritage Site. So they decided to send troops into the area....

With the Cambodians thinking was that the Thai's are after their temple/land and the Thais already fighting with their pride over the whole affair it isn't really surprising that the Cambodian army is also dispatched and the Cambodian PM calls the 4km square area a "life and death battle zone" - two Cambodians soldiers sadly died during a gun-battle.

Now there is a new tension - The Cambodian government has appointed former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra as an economy adviser and this has made the Thai government hopping mad as they think he is a criminal and a powerful political opponent. Thaksin has been living in exile since 2006 when he was ousted in a military coup. A two-year jail sentence awaits him in Thailand. He arrived in Cambodia on Tuesday.

Cambodians it seems think the appointment is a good idea and the government is refusing to extradite him back to Thailand. This probably because a) the Thais are annoyed thereby increasing the delight of the population and b) most people do not publicly disagree with the ruling party for some reason.... Its reported that Thaskin has been playing golf with Cambodian PM Hun Sen.

Things have escalated though and now Cambodia has ordered the first secretary of the Thai Embassy to leave Phnom Penh, and Thailand have done the same to the Cambodian representative in Thailand (small world but I am fairly confident that I used to teach his grandson...!).

Latest news is that a man has been arrested in Cambodia for allegedly spying for Thailand. Apparently he works for Cambodian Air Traffic Service and has been seeking out the flight details of Thaksin.... Thailand says arresting this guy is intimidation with the intention to defame Thailand. The Thai authorities then stated that they would not allow Thaksin's private jet to fly over Thailand's sky on his way out of Cambodia as he is supposed to be returning to Dubai.

In any event, I'm not sure what the government of one of the most corrupt countries can learn from a criminal on the run(!) Who knows what will happen next. If your booking a flight to Cambodia perhaps avoid Bangkok airport or get some good travel insurance!

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