Further updated: War? Coup?

10 02 2011

The Phnom Penh Post has a perspective on the “border clashes” that is a little different from that in the mainstream Bangkok media.

It seems that Hun Sen has “accused Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva of war crimes, saying Cambodia has to prepare a ‘long-term’ strategy in its ‘struggle’ with Thailand. Speaking at Chaktomuk Theatre today, Hun Sen described the recent clashes as a ‘war’ necessitating the involvement of the United Nations Security Council.” He said: “This is a real war. It is not a clash…”.

Hun Sen declared: “Thailand is making this war, not Cambodia, and Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva must take responsibility for these war crimes…. The shelling at the temple and pagoda are one among the war crimes.” He added: “To struggle with Thailand is not one day, one year, [but] many years.”

Hun Sen reaffirmed earlier Cambodian government claims that Thailand deployed cluster bombs during the skirmishes: “They launched a cluster bomb. Is that a clash? This is the real war, it exchanged many heavy artillery…”. Related, the government’s Cambodian Mine Action Centre “released photos today of cluster munitions allegedly discovered in Kantuot commune, in Preah Vihear province’s Choam Ksan district.”

The report states that the Thai military has denied the use of cluster bombs in this conflict and cites an authority as having “cautioned against taking reports from the Cambodian government on the issue at face value.”

The report adds that “Thailand is known to hold stockpiles of cluster munitions, according to the advocacy group Cluster Munitions Coalition, which said last year that Bangkok had pledged that it would not use the weapons but had declined to sign the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions outlawing their use.” Cambodia isn’t a signatory either and it is unclear if it has a stockpile of such weapons.

Thai army denials on the cluster bomb allegations are here, where Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd says it was the Cambodians who used cluster bombs. Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban says the events are not war but border clashes between militaries. He also reiterated that the Thai government views any attempt at international mediation as “a Cambodian diplomatic strategy.” Eventually, it will be asked why Thailand is so resistant to any international mediation.

Update 1: The LA Times has a useful account of events at Preah Vihear.

Update 2: Shawn Crispin at the Asia Times Online states:

Despite the international dimension, the conflict is being driven largely by Thai domestic politics. Because Abhisit did not give the order to open fire, some see the armed exchanges and immediate breakdown of a ceasefire declared on Saturday as yet another indication that he lacks command control over the military. The hostilities and protests come at a time some believe Thailand’s top military brass seek a national security-related pretense to stall Abhisit’s early election plan….

Under those pressures, the once coherent storylines that have defined Thailand’s six-year-old political conflict are fast fragmenting as establishment forces once united against Thaksin [Shinawatra] now compete to steer the country’s future political direction….

[S]ome have speculated that the military has swung back towards the PAD with the transition from outgoing army commander General Anupong [Paojinda] to new chief Prayuth [Chan-ocha] as a way to pressure Abhisit out of his early election plan. With the reappearance of the PAD on Bangkok’s streets, this time as ultra-nationalists in defense of Thai territory, local newspapers have been awash in unexplained coup rumors. (T-shirts for sale at the PAD’s protest advertise for a “civil-military coup”.)

Abhisit has already backed away from the April “promise.” Crispin continues:

An election win would lessen Abhisit’s reliance on the military, which many believe cobbled together his coalitions, and quiet opposition charges that his administration lacks democratic legitimacy because his party placed second, not first, at the 2007 polls. Until then, however, expect more bombshells on the border and rally cries from the streets.



One response

22 04 2011
There are cluster bombs that our guys use and then there are bad cluster bombs | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] that condemns Thailand’s soon-retracted admission of the use of cluster bombs (read our posts here, here, here, here, here and […]

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