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Say no to ugly nationalism ខែកក្កដា 22, 2008

Posted by សុភ័ក្ត្រ in News.
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The bloody clash between members of the the anti-government People’s Alliance for Democracy and a group of local people in Si Sa Ket at the foot of the contentious Preah Vihear temple complex is a sad event. It is a culmination of the relentless building up of nationalist frenzy to the point that it bypasses reason and good judgement.

 

The touchy issue of Preah Vihear could not have occurred at a worse time for Thai-Cambodian relations, either. An ill-natured election campaign in Cambodia and an equally vengeful government-opposition face-off in Thailand have turned a cultural subject back into a political and nationalist confrontation. The governments on both sides of the border have caved in to the actions of self-styled super-patriots. A border committee meeting scheduled for Monday has to take firm action on both sides of the border to end all threats of violence and ratchet down the ugly voices.

 

The near-crisis around the temple issue has occurred for a variety of unfortunate reasons. For separate but equal reasons, neither Thai nor Cambodian authorities have been totally in control of events focusing on the ancient treasure. In both countries, extreme nationalists managed to gain the upper hand, leading to an ugly confrontation at the Preah Vihear site.

 

The priority on both sides of the border must be for the proper authorities to gain total control. There has been neither cause nor justification for the self-styled patriots of either Thailand or Cambodia to challenge the status quo at the temple site. Thais and Cambodians have long inhabited the region around the temple peacefully. Credit is due to both governments and both local military commands at the frontier for dealing peacefully and leniently with the mobs set on “liberating” the temple and the disputed surrounding territory.

 

It is an unhappy coincidence that both the Thai and Cambodian authorities have had to deal so cautiously with such embarrassing groups. Still, the army should have moved much more forcefully to block extremists in their quest to violate long-established border controls. The brief arrest of three Thais for crossing illegally into Cambodia was embarrassing to Thai forces responsible for border security – and to all Thais who want to see a peaceful resolution to existing disputes around the temple.

 

Just as in Thailand, the Cambodian political opposition has accused the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen of being soft on Preah Vihear, of negotiating with Thailand instead of seizing the 4.6 square kilometres of overlapping land.

 

There, as here, the government has had to try to deal with the temple tempest without seeming to be going against the national will.

 

Thai authorities have invited Cambodian counterparts to Sa Kaeo province on Monday for a special meeting of the General Border Committee. Thankfully, officials of both countries have stayed calm. There is no reason for any cross-border confrontation on the issue.

 

It might be wise to close the area for a short time to let tempers cool. Thai and Cambodian troops should agree to jointly patrol the area and prevent any civilians or nationalist groups from violating the border.

 

Because of the temple’s unique geographical location, discussions should be held on jointly caring for the grounds around the Cambodia-owned temple. In addition, authorities must agree to begin talks and surveys to settle ownership of the disputed patch of land around Preah Vihear. Both the temple and bilateral relations are too important to let ultra-nationalists gain the upper hand with violence.

ប្រភព៖ http://www.bangkokpost.com/190708_News/19Jul2008_news29.php

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