Sunday July 13, 2008
By Anchalee Kongrut
Nationalistic protesters at the Preah Vihear ruins managed to place a small Thai pavilion and Thai flag next to the 4.6-square-kilometre overlapping area on the Thai-Cambodia border yesterday. The group of 100 protesters carried a small Thai pavilion, a Buddha image and a Thai flag and placed them on a road next to a passport checkpoint.
Samarn Sringarm, the leader of the Dharmayatra Group which has held protests against a group of Cambodian vendors who built a village in the overlapping area, declared the move was the first step in ”reclaiming Thai territory which was taken away by French colonisers over a century ago”.
”We did not want to cause trouble. Thais and Cambodians are like relatives. But we just want to reclaim what was ours,” he shouted through loudspeakers to Cambodians in the village.
The protest spot is sensitive as it is only 200 metres from Cambodian villages built in the overlapping area. About 200 houses, or 500 Cambodians, have lived in the village for more than a decade.
The group went as far as ”reclaiming” Phra Tabong, or Battambang province, which is part of Cambodia.
Almost two centuries ago it was part of the Kingdom of Siam.
”We want to retaliate against Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen who tries to pressure Thailand. We will use an international treaty and historical records to reclaim not only Preah Vihear but other Thai territory as well,” said Mr Samarn.
The group has been camped at Khao Phra Viharn [Preah Vihear] National Park in Kantharalak district of Si Sa Ket province since June 23.
The Association of Small-scale Farmers, a powerful grassroots group in the northeastern region, and residents from the Network of Natives of Kantharalak District to Protect Khao Phra Viharn also joined the protest.
They have set next Saturday as D-day for ”reclaiming” the temple.
The group yesterday petitioned the army, asking soldiers to push out villagers from the overlapping area by July 21.
They asked the army to erect a Thai flag on the 16th staircase to Preah Vihear temple, which they say marks the boundary. Border patrol soldiers have been deployed to guard the overlapping area since Thursday. Barbed wire has been erected to stop Thai protesters getting in.
”The situation now is sensitive. This is not Ratchadamnoen road in Bangkok where protesters can do anything. Cambodian soldiers have set up machine guns and missiles and they can pull the trigger if something goes wrong.
”We are worried about the security of these protesters,” said a border patrol soldier.