I know I'm probably the only one who will care about this, but it's pretty crazy how quickly this escalated.
About three months ago, Thailand sent troops to a disputed temple on the border between the two countries. The military did this after the Thai government backed an eventually successful bid by Cambodia to have the temple listed as a World Heritage site.
An international court ruled in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia, but the Thais never accepted the ruling, so a lot of the country was upset with the government's decision to back Cambodia's heritage bid.
The two sides existed peacefully for three months until Monday morning, when Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen told the Thai troops to withdraw within 24 hours or watch him turn the area into a "death zone." Despite the ominous warning, the Thai foreign minister on Tuesday morning told the Cambodians that Thai troops would not be leaving.
Two hours later, however, Cambodian generals told reporters that Thai troops had, in fact, withdrawn. Thai officials denied this, and in fact said they had sent more troops. The disputed area is off-limits to non-military, so reports a scarce.
By Tuesday night, no fighting had broken out, with both sides sticking by their stories. By Wednesday morning, it was revealed that Thailand had backed out of a particularly heated piece of land, but had sent more troops to the region. Shortly after 2 pm Wednesday, an explosion was heard - probably someone standing on a landmine, though that is unconfirmed so far - and shooting broke out. A Reuters photographer reported having seen a rocket launched from Thai territory into Cambodian territory.
And that's where things stand now, at about 4 pm Cambodian time. The fighting is believed to still be ongoing, but nobody is entirely sure, as information has been slow to trickle into the newsroom.
Thailand's foreign ministry has urged all Thais to leave Cambodia immediately, even saying the country had a plan to evacuate all citizens from the country if it becomes necessary.
I know that Cambodia has worried for years that neighboring countries have been taking various neighboring territories. I think Vietnam actually did claim some Cambodian land within the last 20 years. I hope the conflict will be resolved peacefully, as I do not want to see Cambodia and Thailand going to war.
Well the fighting stopped Wednesday afternoon; the latest toll is two dead Cambodians, with no word on the Thais. Cambodia has taken 10 Thai soldiers prisoner. The two sides are holding talks now, but it seems unlikely to me that Thailand is just going to all of a sudden back down now, if the ultimatum from the Cambodian prime minister wasn't enough.
If all-out war really were to break out, Thailand would destroy Cambodia. The X-factor is the international community, which would almost certainly side with Cambodia, but would probably be hesitant to intervene militarily.
The other issue is the current political turmoil in Thailand. The massive riots going on in Bangkok against the government, coupled with the fact that the three biggest parties in the ruling coalition are about to be barred from politics and booted from the government, mean nobody is entirely sure who is commanding the military.
EDIT: Another thing about this that is particularly interesting to me is my work with Cambodians. The Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s killed, as policy, anyone in the country who seemed to be "smarter" than everyone else, because they saw that kind of individual intellect as a threat to national unity. I work at a newspaper now, a non-profit English language one that states as its goal "establishing a free and independent press in Cambodia." I hate to put it so bluntly, but most of these people's parents are only alive because they were deemed to not be smart enough to bother killing.
So I work with a bunch of young Khmers charged with rebuilding the country. They are in a very difficult position - their country is on the brink of war, but they are trying to put their personal interests aside to report on this. At the risk of sounding like the stereotypical, condescending Westerner in a developing country, it's somewhat inspiring watching these guys go through this.
EDIT 2: Oh yeah! Another interesting twist on all this: In 2003, similar nationalist fervor was struck between these two - I believe over the same temple, though no fighting broke out - and Cambodians in Phnom Penh *burned down the Thai embassy* in protest. So the Thais in Cambodia are understandably nervous right now, though nothing that drastic has happened thus far.
Originally posted by spfFirst, stay safe. Not sure how close or far from this you are, but stay safe.
I am safe, for now. Even if fighting resumes, I'm about six hours from the area, and Thailand doesn't particularly seem interested in attacking the capital.
Originally posted by thecubsfanWhy is this particular temple worth turning the area into a death zone?
(I ask that knowing there is probably not an answer that'll satisfy me.)
It's the oldest temple in the country (about 150 years older than the more famous Angkow Watt) and in a spot that, geographically at least, makes more sense to be part of Thailand.
The temple itself is on this giant cliff on the border, and is virtually impossible to access from Cambodia's side. You have to trek up this incredibly steep hill that can't be navigated after it rains (which is every day between April and October).
If you go back like 700 years or something like that, this temple was near the center of a Khmer empire that included much of modern day Thailand and Cambodia, so the people of these two countries both can claim it to be a significant part of their cultural histories, as is made evident by the UNESCO World Heritage listing.
That's as good a reason as any to fight over a temple, I guess.
Originally posted by komarkaze I know that Cambodia has worried for years that neighboring countries have been taking various neighboring territories. I think Vietnam actually did claim some Cambodian land within the last 20 years. I hope the conflict will be resolved peacefully, as I do not want to see Cambodia and Thailand going to war.
The Kampuchea Krom region is what you're thinking of, and Vietnam took it from Cambodia nearly a century ago, I believe. The region is predominantly ethnic Cambodians. Cambodians at large hate Vietnam, with that region being the center of the hatred. Many of them still call the Vietnamese "thieves."
And the game will go on, as it always has ... everybody spies on everybody else, everyone knows it. If discovered, diplomats get expelled, leaders harrumph for their media, and the game goes on as it always does.