Read Khmerization’s rebuttal titled “When Thailand Cries Wolf“.
5 August 2008
At the outset, it should be made clear that your recent reporting, concerning the Preah Vihear issue, has not been based in historical facts but rather on domestic political considerations of the people who have prompted this new episode of tension between Thailand and Cambodia over the ownership of the Preah Vihear Temple.
Cambodia has not cried wolf at all but as a member of ASEAN and the United Nations, it has the sovereign right to appraise those organizations of the problem and to seek, if Cambodia sees fit, their auspices to solve the problem peacefully and without violence.
Bangkokian is mistaken by stating that Cambodia has raised the issue with the Non-aligned Movement. To my knowledge it has not but should it be necessary to do so, it is perfectly appropriate for Cambodia to appraise the NAM of the historical facts and events concerning the Preah Vihear Temple.
The misguided nationalism showed by certain political activists and some politicians in Thailand (in particular some appointed Senators), as well as the troop build up at the border is both dangerous and not conducive to productive bilateral discussions to settle the problem and it may be necessary for ASEAN and, preferably the United Nations, to step in as the broker in these discussions.
In all fairness, Cambodia did not begin the current dispute over Preah Vihear Temple. It was began in Bangkok by the activist opposition to the current democratically elected Thai government and then taken on as a cause to overthrow the government by some luminaries of the Democrat Party and some appointed Senators, who seem to be more concerned by their own personal agendas than the interests of the people of Thailand, who are going already through a very difficult time because of a weak economy, the disunity and lack of leadership of the political elite.
What Cambodia has been trying to do, since 2001, is to get the Temple of Preah Vihear inscribed as a World Heritage site, in order that the Temple can be properly restored and preserved for posterity. This was done in proper consultation with Thailand and when the latter asked Cambodia not to include the overlapping zone near the Temple which Thailand claims as part of its territory, Cambodia agreed to do so and left the overlapping zone out of the World Heritage nomination.
May I also point out that Preah Vihear is not an “Hindu temple” as stated in your newspaper on several occasions over recent weeks, more recently in the article by Supalak Ganjanakhundee “Tej’s background should let him cool nationalistic fury” in your issue of 1 August 2008.
Preah Vihear is a Khmer sanctuary, built by Khmer kings and dedicated to Shiva the Hindu god. Indeed, construction of the temple was began under the rule of the Khmer king Jasovarman I (889-910 AD) and completed during the rule of one of his successors, king Suryavarman II (1113-1145).
It should be understood that for past Khmer kings, a sanctuary was first and foremost a cosmological recreation. Thus, the construction of Khmer sanctuaries in the form of multi-tiered Pyramids meant that the place was considered a sacred cosmic mountain. This was particularly noticeable in the temples dedicated to Shiva, because of the association with the god’s mountain home –Mount Kailasa-. A mountain or a cliff top location, as in the case of Preah Vihear, was always the first choice for the Khmer architects building these major temples.
It should also be pointed out that the ruins of Preah Vihear form part, without any possible question, of the Khmer artistic and historical patrimony. The name “Preah Vihear” signifies “the holy, the Venerable monastery” it comes from the Sanskrit word “vihara”.
As far as the architectural style of the temple is concerned, all the characteristics of the sanctuary i.e., ground plan, building technique, decorative themes, sculpture, belong specifically to Khmer art, without borrowing of any kind from any foreign art whatsoever.
When it comes to the epigraphy of the temple, all the inscriptions are written in either Khmer or Sanskrit and do emanate from Cambodian sovereigns or high dignitaries ranging from Jasovarman I, the founder of Angkor, to Suryavarman II, the builder of Angkor Vat II. Some of these inscriptions are of exceptional importance for the history of Cambodia.
In particular the inscriptions of Divakarapandita, preceptor of the Khmer kings from Harsavarman III to Suryavarman II, were decisive in determining the main feature of the style of Angkor Vat.
The fact that the principal approach to the temple is from the North is of no significance: it was natural that the sanctuary should be oriented to suit the lie of the ground, on a site that was entirely Khmer in the Angkor period.
It would be particularly useful for new generations of Thais to appreciate that much of present Thailand and Laos used to be part of the Khmer Empire; that the Thai script is a simplified form of the Khmer language; and that Khmer architecture, classical dance and other aspects of the Khmer civilization were adopted by the Thai Court during the Ayutthaya period of their illustrious history.
This would contribute much to the restoration of friendship, trust and close relations between Thailand and Cambodia and, no doubt facilitate the work of the distinguished diplomat Tej Bunnag in defusing the current border tension.
Ambassador Julio A. Jeldres
Official Biographer of H.M. the King Father
Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia
Research Fellow, Monash University’s Asia Institute