Street led Thai Government is not a trustworthy partner in international negotiations
On Monday, February 14, 2011, the United Nations Security Council will convene on the request of Cambodia to discuss the Thai-Cambodian border issue. While this meeting is doubtlessly a victory for the Cambodian diplomacy, the only question that matters for the Cambodian people is: will it help achieve a lasting solution?
To everyone, the Thai-Cambodian issue seems to be a simple border conflict as reported world wide by the media and as Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa stated «it is a common border dispute like many others among ASEAN countries». Because of this perception of the problem, the French Foreign Ministry offered France’s help by providing the maps annexed to the 1907 Franco-Siamese Treaty that delimited the frontiers between Siam and Cambodia. The offer was swiftly turned down by the Thai Government. This dismissal clearly shows that, from the Thai point of view, the conflict is not a matter of border demarcation.
Over the last two years, the Cambodian diplomacy unsuccessfully and hopelessly tried to have the Thai side accepting those maps drawn between 1904 and 1908 as the basis for their border negotiations as they constitute the only legal internationally recognized documents about the Thai-Cambodian border. The Thai dismissal of these maps has to be understood as a blatant rebuff of the June 15, 1962, Judgement of the International Court of Justice of the Hague, as the ruling was entirely based on the Franco-Chinese maps that were annexed to the ruling.
This far, the Thai stance has obviously been to arrogantly and unilaterally wipe out any legal frameworks. So, what will the UN Security Council meeting be about? The only outcome of the meeting to be reasonably expected is a resolution calling both parties to peacefully settle their dispute. If it were so, then the meeting would be useless as it would only provide another legal frameworks to be rejected by Thailand and leave Cambodia prey to its power politics.
In this regard, the UNSC has to consider, not only the armed confrontation between the two countries, but the bellicose declarations that were made by Thai leaders. On June 25, 2008, when he was then an opposition leader, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said that «Thailand had never accepted the map that Cambodia presented to the World Court in 1962». He also added that «Tailand intended to seek the return of Preah Vihear “when the opportunity arose”». Question is: By what means? The answer was bluntly given on February, 9, 2011, by street opposition leader Sondhi Limthongkul when he urged the Thai military «to seize Cambodian territory, including Angkor Wat, to barter for Preah Vihear Temple». Democrats led Thailand clearly chose to become an international outlaw.
To be successful, the UNSC meeting has to be a first step towards finding a lasting solution that is, to begin with, to protect Cambodia, not from small clashes, but from a large scale open conflict as the far superiorly equipped Thai military is building up along the 800 kilometer border between the two countries.
In this regard, the most important — and the trickiest — problem to be considered by the UNSC is surely the reliability and the relevance of an international outlaw Thai government that does not even care pretending to respect its own agreements. Then how can the current street-led Thai government be a trustworthy partner in any negotiation?
Without a reliable negotiation partner, Cambodia needs the international protection, the same as she needed during the reign of Pol Pot and that was refused to her. It is to be hoped that this time, the international community would have learnt the lesson and not pretend to give justice to the Cambodian people thirty years later.