“Thailand, as a neighbour of Cambodia, must realise and understand that good neighbourly co-existence is based on mutual understanding and mutual respect. Its refusal to accept and honour the mutually-agreed conventions and treaties with Cambodia will not be reciprocated with due respect from Cambodia, but will only create irreversible mistrusts and suspicions.”
Recent statements by Thailand’s director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Varachai Plasai, are not helping the cause of the search for the solution to the current Khmer-Thai border disputes. Thailand’s stance, by the statements of Mr. Varachai, in rejection of the mutually agreed 1904 convention and the 1907 Khmer-Thai treaty, has dashed any hope of an amicable solution to the already complex Khmer-Thai border issues. On the contrary, his statements will fuel and add more diplomatic and border tensions between the two countries.
His statements: “We acknowledge the existence of the maps which are the results of the demarcation works of commission of delimitation of the boundary set up under the 1904 and 1907 treaties of Siam-France but we don’t accept”, and “Thailand will reject any attempt made by Cambodia to use the 1904 French map as a basis for border delimitation because according to this map, all the disputed Khmer temples are located inside Cambodia”, are clear indications that Thailand is not keen on settling the border disputes amicably and mutually, but on Thailand’s terms. Thailand has consistently reiterated that it will only agree to negotiate based on maps unilaterally drawn by Thailand. In other words, Thailand will not settle the current border disputes with Cambodia if Cambodia does not allow Thailand to keep the territories it had claimed and occupied to date. So, is peace and border solution possible between Cambodia and Thailand in the future?
Thailand, as a neighbour of Cambodia, must realise and understand that good neighbourly co-existence is based on mutual understanding and mutual respect. Its refusal to accept and honour the mutually-agreed conventions and treaties with Cambodia will not be reciprocated with due respect from Cambodia, but will only create irreversible mistrusts and suspicions.
The Khmer-Thai borderlines have been settled once and for all since 1907. The delimitation of the borders between Cambodia and Thailand have long been recognised under international law as having been once and for all settled by the findings and the works of the Franco-Siam Mixed Commission instituted and ratified by the Convention of 1904 and the Franco-Siam Treaty of March 23, 1907. Furthermore, the Franco-Siam Treaties of 1925 and 1937 as well as the adjudication of June 15, 1962 of the International Court of Justice, in which the Preah Vihear temple was adjudged to belong to Cambodia, reaffirmed the border disposition as prescribed by the works of the Franco-Siam Mixed Commission.
In regard to the current disputes, Thailand has consistently insisted that the surrounding areas in the vicinity of the Preah Vihear temple have never been delimited and that the verdict of the International Court of Justice in 1962 did not cover the issue of those surrounding areas. The notion that the areas in the vicinity of the Preah Vihear temple have not been settled is a misconception. The Cambodian ownership of the temple and the surrounding areas, deemed disputed by Thailand, has been settled once and for all by that court’s verdict. And that verdict has vindicated the Cambodian claims and render justice to the 1907 treaty. The court adjudicated that:
1. “the Temple of Preah Vihear is situated in territory under the sovereignty of Cambodia;”
2. “Thailand is under an obligation to withdraw any military or police forces, or other guards or keepers, stationed by her at the Temple, or in its vicinity on Cambodian territory”
3. “Thailand is under an obligation to restore to Cambodia any objects of the kind specified in Cambodia’s fifth Submission which may, since the date of the occupation of the Temple by Thailand in 1954, have been removed from the Temple or the Temple area by the Thai authorities.”: ICJ Reports 1962, p. 36, 37.
The second judgement of the court was crystal clear that Thailand is under the obligation to withdraw all its forces from the temple or from “its vicinity on Cambodian territory”. As the court’s judgements were based on the maps of the 1904 and 1907 treaties, the issue of the ownership of the temple and “its vicinity” has been resolved, as the maps of the 1904-1907 treaties placed both the temple and “its vicinity” inside Cambodia.
Thailand has long claimed that Franco-Siam treaty of 1904-1907 has always been in favour of Cambodia to the detriment of Thailand’s territorial integrity. The same was said by Cambodia, as evident by king Sisowath’s letter of protest to the French Governor in 1906. King Sisowath demanded the return of all Khmer provinces occupied by Siam by which he said “We insist on the former natural limits of the Khmer Kingdom which, prior to the Siamese invasion, included on Siam’s side the provinces of Battambang, Siem Reap, Stung Treng, Tonle Ropov, M’lou Prey, Kuckhan [currently known as Sisaket], Prey Sar, Soren [Surin], Sankeac [Sangka], Neang Rong, Nokoreach Seima (Korat), beyond the Phnom Dangrek Mountain, Koh Kong, Krat and Chantabor (Chantaboun [Chantaburi]) touching upon Bacnam and the Kingdom of Champassac (Passac). All these provinces are still populated by Cambodians and they preserve their absolute Khmer patriotism.”
Contrary to Mr. Varachai’s comments and in respect to international laws, maps from the 1904, 1907 treaties should be used as a basis for the settlement of border disputes between Thailand and Cambodia because they are the only internationally-recognised treaties as they were agreed, signed and ratified by both countries. Furthermore, they were vindicated and rendered justice by the International Court of Justice in 1962.
Thailand’s insistence on the use of maps unilaterally drawn by Thailand, without Cambodia’s agreement, is against the spirit of good neighbourly respect and contrary to international laws. Those maps have no legal basis under international laws. Under any circumstances, Cambodia should never agree to use maps unilaterally drawn by Thailand as a basis for the negotiations. If the 1904, 1907 maps were not used, and instead the maps unilaterally drawn by Thailand were used, it would be a betrayal of the treaties and a tragedy as it will set a precedent because it will trigger future violations of subsequent treaties.
So, if Thailand is intransigently insisting on using the maps unilaterally drawn by Thailand itself, will there ever be an agreement and peace at all? If that is the case, is there any room for Cambodia to manoeuvre in the negotiations? If Thailand does not conform to international laws by accepting the internationally-recognised treaties of 1904, 1907 treaties, the Khmer-Thai border disputes will become a quagmire and result in future deadly armed conflicts as what has happened on the 15th of October. And that would be a tragedy in the Khmer-Thai relations. No one single country, but both countries, will lose from these insignificant and petty disputes.