Original report from Phnom Penh
31 July 2008
As Cambodian and Thai officials sought to resolve the continued military standoff at Preah Vihear temple, former king Norodom Sihanouk (pictured) re-issued a statement this week saying he was willing to raise an army if the Thais invaded the country.
Sihanouk is scheduled to leave for Beijing Friday for the opening of the 2008 Summer Olympics, but he posted in his weekly Bulletin Mensuel de Documentation, or BMD, on Monday, “even though I am getting older, I would go to the bush to attack a Thai invasion.”
The statement used the French word “maquis” for bush, a reference to raising resistance.
Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said neither war nor violence would not be an option in the standoff, which began July 15 when Thai troops occupied a pagoda near Preah Vihear temple.
Thousands of soldiers are deployed on each side of the border, as well as tanks, artillery and other heavy weapons.
The BMD message was a reposting of statements Sihanouk made following anit-Thai riots in Phnom Penh in 2003, and they met with mixed support from current Cambodian officials.
Prince Sisowath Thomico, a former adviser to Sihanouk, said the words carried as much meaning as they had five years ago.
“Even though he wrote it in 2003, until now it reflects his own views,” Prince Thomico said.
“Even though he’s getting old, he still has resistance to maintain our heritage, especially our Preah Vihear land, which he won in the Hague in 1962,” said Funcinpec lawmaker Khieu Son, a former military officer under Lon Nol and Sihanouk.
CPP adviser Dien Del, former commander-in-chief during the Lon Nol and Sangkum Reastr Nyum regimes, said Thursday he had not seen the king’s statement, but added the Preah Vihear crisis should be solved through peaceful negotiation.
“Don’t forget that we are smaller than Thailand,” he said. “Please give time to the politicians so that they can negotiate in a peaceful way, because war is difficult and the Thais have more troops than us and more modern weapons.”
“I am now 76 years old, so I cannot lead the armed forces to fight any more,” Dien Del said. “We cannot knock our heads with iron.”