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05BANGKOK3333 THAIS CONTENT WITH LOCAL NEGOTIATIONS TO DEFUSE BORDER TENSIONS WITH CAMBODIA AT ANCIENT KHMER TEMPLE

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“32916”,”5/19/2005 10:31″,”05BANGKOK3333″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,

“This record is a partial extract of the original cable.

The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

“,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 003333

 

SIPDIS

 

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/BCLTV, USPACOM FOR FPA HUSO

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/18/2015

TAGS: PBTS, PGOV, PREL, CB, TH, CAMBODIA

SUBJECT: THAIS CONTENT WITH LOCAL NEGOTIATIONS TO DEFUSE

BORDER TENSIONS WITH CAMBODIA AT ANCIENT KHMER TEMPLE

 

Classified By: Political Counselor Robert J. Clarke, Reason: 1.4 (d)

 

1. Summary: Recent news stories about a dispute at a

historically sensitive ancient Khmer temple at the border

between Thailand and Cambodia inaccurately reported increased

Thai troop deployments and explosion of a landmine inside the

temple. Tensions at this temple site, which flare

periodically, apparently have led to negotiations between

local officials. Royal Thai Government (RTG) authorities say

encroachment and environmental damage by a growing community

of Cambodian villagers and vendors in the area surrounding

Preah Vihear (AKA Prasat Khao Phra Viharn in the Thai

language) temple are behind the tensions. They are not

overly concerned, however, and expect the local negotiations

to defuse the situation. The Thai Minister of Defense will

visit Phnom Penh next month and told the Thai press that he

will raise the border dispute as one of a number of bilateral

issues. End Summary.

 

BACKGROUND

 

2. (U) During the week of May 16, Thai news coverage of a

reported border dispute in Si Saket province included claims

that the Thai Army had sent up to 500 troops to reinforce the

Thai – Cambodian border, that Thai troops had begun

construction of quarters and the deployment of artillery

around the temple and that a landmine had exploded in the

ground around Preah Vihear temple. Prasat Khao Phra Viharn

(as it is referred to in the Thai language) or Preah Vihear

(in Khmer) was once under the jurisdiction of Thailand.

Since July 15, 1962, jurisdiction of the site has reverted to

Cambodia following a territorial case resolution in the

International Court of Justice. However, the easiest access

to the site is from the Thai side of the border, meaning a

border checkpoint essentially serves as the entrance to this

historically significant temple, which has religious and

historical ties to both Ankhor Wat in Cambodia\’s Siem Riap

Province, and Thailand\’s Phanom Rung temple in Buriram

Province and Phi Mai temple in Nakhon Ratchasima Province.

 

MFA STATES RELATIONS WITH CAMBODIA \”NORMAL\”

 

3. (C) Poloff spoke with the XXXXXXXXXXXX officer at the

Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), XXXXXXXXXXX who

stated that, \”For the record, relations between Cambodia and

Thailand are normal.\” He said that the border area at Preah

Vihear has been an issue for years and recent developments

did not signify a significant deterioration in relations with

Cambodia. He denied media reports that up to 500 new troops

had been sent to the area and claimed that the border

remained open. XXXXXX said that local officials on both

sides of the border were working on the latest disagreement

and that the RTG would leave it to the local officials to

resolve the latest issues, as they had in the past. XXXXX

noted that the \”rapidly growing\” Cambodian community in the

area around Preah Vihear was creating environmental damage

and polluting the Thai border area, especially local water

sources.

 

4. (U) Embassy officers contacted various local officials,

including the Thai District Chief and local Police commanders

to clarify the situation. Local Thai administrative

officials said that the Thai border checkpoint was not closed

during recent disputes with Cambodian villagers encroaching

in the zone around the temple. The police officials did

state, however, that while the Thai checkpoint remains

officially open, Cambodian officials have closed the entrance

gate to the temple, effectively closing the only border

crossing point in the immediate area. All of our contacts

denied the reports of increased Thai Army personnel

deployments, or any landmine incidents, as a consequence of

tensions.

 

5. (U) An Embassy officer spoke with officials at the

Thailand Mine Action Center (TMAC), who stated they had no

information or comments to offer on the reported landmine

incident. Poloff contacted an XXXXXXX NGO worker at

Jesuit Relief Services (JRS) in Bangkok, which coordinates

landmine awareness and removal with TMAC. XXXX stated that

JRS had seen the media report but no official incident report

had reached her office. XXXX did noted that the area is

heavily mined and that TMAC and a local Thai foundation have

an active demining project along the Thai side of the border.

XXXX was unaware of any demining that had taken place on the

Cambodian side.

 

6. (C) Comment: This latest incident is indicative of how

the Thai media will sometimes run sensationalist material

without regard to how it might stir up nationalist sentiments

and heighten tensions between Thailand and Cambodia. This

type of careless reporting can have serious consequences.

For example, the sacking of the Thai Embassy by a mob of

demonstrators in Phnom Penh in January 2003 was partially

triggered by false reports in Cambodia that a Thai actress

had claimed Angkor Wat belonged to Thailand. Thai reporting

fanned the flames in Bangkok and almost sparked a

retaliation. This time — while there are still real

differences to be resolved between the two nations on access

and the development of tourism at Preah Vihear — the local

negotiations appear to be enough to keep the situation under

control. The Thai MFA is taking the latest flare-up in

stride and, at the height of media attention on this \”border

tension,\” Prime Ministers Thaksin and Hun Sen were amiably

having dinner together in Bangkok at a welcoming event for

the Miss Universe contestants. Thai Defense Minister Tamarak

told journalists he will include this matter on his agenda

when he visits Phnom Penh in a few weeks. The Thai public

does not appear to be at all fired up by this cycle of

misreporting by the Thai media. End Comment.

ARVIZU

Written by thaicables

July 16, 2011 at 6:04 am

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