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The 2008/2009 Cambodian-Thai stand-off between Cambodiamarker and Thailandmarker began in June 2008 as the latest round of a century-long dispute involving the area surrounding the 11th-century Preah Vihear Templemarker, located between the Kantharalakmarker district (amphoe) in the Sisaketmarker province of Northeastern Thailandmarker and the Choam Khsantmarker district in the Preah Vihearmarker province of northern Cambodia. Thailand claims that demarcation has not yet been completed for the external parts of the area judged by the International Court of Justicemarker (ICJ) in 1962. The dispute in 2008 widened to include the Ta Moan Thom complex 153 km to the west of Preah Vihear, near the border between the Thai Surinmarker province and the Cambodian Oddar Meancheaymarker province. Though some sources suggest otherwise, the Sdok Kok Thom Temple in Thailand's Aranyaprathetmarker District is unlikely to become a source of dispute, as it is 1.6 km inside Thailand at a well-demarcated, undisputed section of the boundary in a heavily settled area, unlike Preah Vihear and Ta Moan Thom.


The Preah Vihear temple has been the subject of often rancorous debate within Cambodia and Thailand and between the two nations since the very late 19th century.

The temple was built during the 9th and 10th centuries by the Khmer Empire. As the empire reached its zenith and began a slow decline, the Ayutthaya Kingdom began its climb to the modern-day state of Thailand. Siammarker and Vietnammarker conquered Cambodian territory in turn during the Ayutthaya, Thonburi and Rattanakosin eras. During the early Rattanakosin, France colonized Vietnam, resulted as Cambodia being a Siamese tributary until the conquering of France .

In 1867, Franco-Thai treaty renouncing Thai suzerainty over Cambodia, and leaving Siam for the control of Battambang, Siem Reapmarker, Banteay Meancheymarker and Oddar Meancheaymarker provinces , which officially became provinces of Thailand. In 1904, the map was made and state the temple as being on Thailand's boundary. Later in 1907, the 4 provinces were ceded back to Francemarker in an exchange for regaining Thai sovereignty of Trat Province and Amphoe Dan Saimarker of Loei Provincemarker, in a border treaty between France and Thailand, during the state visit of King Rama V to France. In 1907 the Thai-Cambodian border was mapped by the French on behalf of a bilateral border commission. The principle was that it should follow the watershed line. By this, the temple would be in Thailand's boundary according to the principle . However, the subsequent map showed Preah Vihear Temple as being in Cambodia, which is different from 1904 map. Despite this, Thailand circulated the map for official use . The circulation significantly affects current dispute.

During World War II, Thailand took advantage of the 1940 French surrender to regain Khmer and Lao territory lost in the 1904 and 1907 exchanges; Battambang Province of Thailand (modern day Battambang Provincemarker and Pailinmarker municipality, Cambodia) , Phibunsongkhram (modern day Siem Reapmarker, Oddar Meancheaymarker and Banteay Meancheymarker provinces, Cambodia) , Nakorn Champasak Province (modern day Champassack Provincemarker, Laos) and Lan Chang (modern day Xaignabouli, Laos) ; (See map below) Beginning in December 1940, this invasion started the French-Thai War. The Thai army and air force, better equipped and outnumbering the Colonial French forces, easily won on land. The French achieved a decisive naval victory at the Battle of Koh Changmarker. The Japanese forcibly mediated the conflict, fearing that the invasion would affect their colonies in Southeast Asia.. A general armistice was declared on January 28, 1941. On May 9 a peace treaty was signed in Tokyomarker, with the French being coerced by the Japanesemarker into relinquishing their hold on the territories demanded by Thailand.

On December 8, 1941, a few hours before the attack on Pearl Harbormarker, Japan, demanding the right to move troops across Thailand to the Malayanmarker frontier, launched the invasion of Thailand. After six to eight hours of battles, Thailand's Prime Minister Plaek Phibunsongkhram ordered a ceasefire. Shortly thereafter Japan was granted free passage, and on December 21, 1941, Thailand and Japan signed a military alliance with a secret protocol wherein Tokyo agreed to help Thailand in regaining territories lost to the British and French colonial powers, in exchange Thailand had to assist Japan in her war against the Allies.

After World War II, Thai Prime Minister Pridi Phanomyong agreed to return the captured territories to France, as a condition for being regarded as neither an aggressor nor a member of the Axis Power so as not to suffer a similar fate to Germany, Japan and Italy, and admission to the newly created United Nations. Initially both the United Kingdommarker and the Soviet Unionmarker willingly regarded Thailand as an aggressor. The United Statesmarker chose to intervene politically for reasons involving the Free Thai Movement and prevailed on its wartime allies to change their stances as a result of the returning of occupied territories.

Upon Cambodian Independence and the French withdrawal in 1953 Thailand occupied Preah Vihear Temple in 1954.

In 1962 the International Court of Justicemarker in the Haguemarker, the Netherlands, awarded ownership of Preah Vihear Temple to Cambodia, stating that the 1907 map clearly showed Preah Vihear as being in Cambodia. Thailand reacted angrily as the map did not follow watershed line, which had been the agreement of the bilateral border commission. Thailand eventually reluctantly handed over the temple and limited surrounding areas, but has never withdrawn from the surrounding land, in contravention of the 1962 ICJ judgment, claiming the border has never been officially demarcated.

The ownership dispute reappeared in recent years after Cambodia submitted an application to UNESCOmarker requesting that Preah Vihear be designated as a World Heritage site. Thailand contended that the application requested such designation for land surrounding the temple that Thailand considers belong to it. In the interest of cross-border relations Cambodia withdrew the application, and in 2008, after winning support from Thailand, submitted a modified map requesting the designation only for the temple but not the surrounding land.

The Preah Vihear temple issue, both its location and listing, has become the subject of nationalist political posturing in both Cambodia and Thailand:

The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) , a Thai protester group, has turned the temple into a cause célèbre wedge issue in its battles against the People Power Party government of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej in their attempts to unseat the former (57th) and current (58th) Cabinet of Thailand. In 2006 the PAD led street protests that led first to the Thai general election of April, 2006, won by then-incumbent former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's Thai Rak Thai Party and then to the military coup of June 2006, which ousted Thaksin Shinawatra. Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej is commonly seen as a proxy for the self-exiled Thaksin Shinawatra.

The Cambodian People's Party (CPP) government of Prime Minister Hun Sen used the possibly coincidental timing of UNESCOmarker's annual meeting and the listing of the temple as a World Heritage site in its campaigning for the July 27, 2008, parliamentary election.


  • In January 2008, the Thai Defense Ministry from the 56th Cabinet of Thailand protested Cambodia's attempt to register the temple as a UNESCO World Heritage Site without agreement from Thailand.

  • In March 2008, Cambodia informed Thailand of their plan to register Preah Vihear Temple as a World Heritage Site.

  • In April 2008, Thailand (the 57th cabinet) and Cambodia planned a talk on the issue before the registration. Thailand insisted that it would support the registration of the temple but that the process 'must not affect the disputed borderline'.

  • On June 18, 2008, Thailand and Cambodia made a joint communique regarding the temple registration.

  • On June 22, 2008, Cambodia closed the border crossing to Preah Vihear in response to Thai protests held at the border crossing. The protests were championed by anti-Thaksin opposition figure, self-declared bankrupt Sonthi Limthongkul, who claimed the government of Thai Prime Minister Samak Sudaravej had gained business concessions in Cambodia in payment for ceding Thai territory to Cambodia when negotiating the Preah Vihear site map that would be presented to UNESCO in Quebecmarker, Canadamarker.

  • On June 30, 2008 the Nation newspaper in Bangkok published an editorial online highly critical of the People's Alliance for Democracy for its use of Preah Vihear temple in its campaign against the People Power Party government of Prime Minister Samak Sudaravej.

  • On July 2, 2008, as UNESCO began its annual meeting in Quebecmarker, Canadamarker, the Bangkok Post online published a Deutsche Presse-Agentur (German Press Agency) report that erroneously stated that Preah Vihear partially sits on Thai territory. Following the Thai government's decision to support Cambodia's bid for World Heritage listing, anti-Thaksin Shinawatra Thai opposition figures mounted a legal challenge against Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama.
    • The Thai Constitutional Court finally upheld the suit on 7 July 2008 in an 8-1 judgment that the foreign minister's joint communique with Cambodia was 'unconstitutional'. Whilst UNESCO met in Quebec, Canada, there were about 20 Thai people standing and protesting outside holding sign "Noppadon, you are a LIAR" and Thai flags.

  • On July 8, 2008, thousands of Phnom Penh residents marched through the streets in celebration of the inscription of Preah Vihear temple by UNESCO. On the same day, the Municipality of Phnom Penh held an evening outdoor concert at Wat Phnommarker to celebrate the inscription of Preah Vihear temple by UNESCO earlier in the day. The concert was nationally broadcast on CTN, emceed by Cambodia's biggest television star and featured traditional Khmer performances as well as a fireworks display. Despite persistent rain, thousands of Cambodians attended.

  • On July 10, 2008, Thai Foreign Minister Nappadon Pattama resigned over the listing of Preah Vihear by UNESCO. His resignation followed the 8-1 judgment by the Thai Constitutional Court that he had violated Article 190 of Thailand's 2007 Constitution, which calls for a public debate and Cabinet-level approval before any such authorization can take place.

  • On July 14, 2008, 8,000 Cambodians filled Phnom Penh's Olympic Stadiummarker Indoor Arena for a concert hosted by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and simulcast on Bayon Television. Sok An had just returned from UNESCO's annual conference in Quebec, Canada, where Preah Vihear was inscribed as a World Heritage site.

  • On July 15, 2008, cross-border tensions flared after Cambodian authorities arrested three Thai nationals who had crossed the closed border in an effort to plant the Thai flag on the temple grounds. Several dozen Thai soldiers were reported to have subsequently crossed the border. One Thai soldier lost his leg to a landmine detonation.
    • Thailand maintains its troops are deployed to protect its sovereignty and ensure that any protests by Thais near the temple remain orderly, although a senior Thai military official acknowledged that the troops were on "disputed" ground.

  • On July 16, 2008, Thailand increased the number of troops stationed in the illegally-occupied border region adjacent to Preah Vihear temple.

  • On July 17, 2008, the total number of troops at the temple increased to over 1,000, with some of the 400 Thai troops in the area occupying a Buddhist pagoda within Cambodian territory. Thai forces have denied they are inside Cambodian territory.
    • In a letter to the Thai Prime Minister, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen called for the immediate withdrawal of Thai troops and protesters from the area.

  • On July 18, 2008, the Thai government handed Cambodia a letter from Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej insisting Thai troops are deployed on Thai soil. In a letter to Hun Sen, the Thai PM said Cambodian troops and buildings on the disputed 4.6 km² (1.8 sq mi) area were a "violation of Thailand's sovereignty and territorial integrity", but that his government was "resolved to seek a just and peaceful solution to the situation."

  • On July 19, 2008, the Thai and Cambodian governments sent more troops and heavy guns to the disputed border ahead of high-level talks scheduled for 21 July 2008 between the Cambodian defence minister and Thailand's supreme military commander.
  • On 21 July 2008, Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Ban and Thai Army commander Boonsrang Niempradit held talks in Thailand. The talks achieved no outcome.

  • On 22 July 2008, Thailand rejected the assistance of ASEAN in resolving the border dispute. Thailand's statement came as ASEAN foreign ministers began a meeting in Singapore. The BBC reported that Cambodia had requested UN assistance in resolving the border dispute. The previous week the Cambodian government denied it had made such a call after similar news stories were published.

  • On 23 July 2008, a spokesman for Cambodia' s prime minister suggested that Cambodia may take the case to the International Court of Justicemarker, as was done in 1962.

  • On 24 July 2008, Cambodia announced it would postpone its request to the United Nations until the bilateral negotiation at Siem Reapmarker in 28 July was finished.
    • Cambodia and Thailand held the meeting on 28 July without any results.
    • Reportedly, both sides are in favour of a troop withdrawal, beginning with Thailand's army; the date when Thailand would withdraw its troops was not agreed on, however.

  • On August 1, 2008, Bun Rany, wife of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, conducted a Buddhism ritual in a temple that is in a disputed-area; thousands of Cambodian people also joined the ritual. The anti-Thai government People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) leaders on that night led thousands of their supporters in a rival ritual, by praying Suttas that the Gautama Buddha gave to his monks, this is to prevent any negative effects from the Cambodian one, they claimed. Furthermore, there were numbers of Thai people accusing Bun Rany conducted a black magic, aimed to weaken Thailand; they believed so as Cambodia has many expertise of black magic.

  • On August 1, 2008, The Nation newspaper in Thailand published an editorial criticizing Cambodia for calling on the international community to help resolve the Preah Vihear stand-off.

  • On August 3, 2008, Cambodia claimed that Thailand occupied a second Angkorian-era temple complex, Ta Moan Thom and Ta Moan Touch, in Oddar Meanchey Province.

  • On August 5, 2008 Kriengkrai Sampatchalit, Thailand Fine Arts Department director replied to Cambodia, after many angers of Cambodians, "The Prasat [Ta Moan Thom Temple] is located just about 100 metres from the border on Thai soil."
    • According to the Thai authorities, the Ta Moan Thom complex is in Thailand territory as evidenced by the Fine Arts Department's registration of the ancient ruin as a Thailand national archaeological site 73 years ago in 1935.
    • Tharit Charungvat, Thailand ministry's chief spokesman said, "Thailand has not boosted the number of its troops [in Ta Moan Thom Temple]."
    • Thai Army chief Anupong Paochinda said Thai troops would remain at Ta Moan Thom because the temple is in Thailand.

  • On August 7, 2008 ASEAN reported that both Thailand and Cambodia have withdrawn their troops from the Ta Moan Thom temple area to their original bases, according to AFP.
    • Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej reportedly is expected to visit the area near the Preah Vihear Temple, but not the Temple itself, according to Cambodian sources. Cambodia and Thailand will hold a second foreign ministers' meeting in Thailand on August 18, 2008 to seek a peaceful solution to the 25-day-long military standoff over the border dispute.

  • On August 14, 2008, both nations' militaries agreed to reduce troop levels at Preah Vihear Temple prior to a meeting between their foreign ministers.

  • In September, 2008, Cambodia accused Thailand of sending troops to occupy the Ta Moan Thom and Ta Kwai temples. Thailand responded that the temples belong to them and are part of Surin province and that The Thai Fine Arts Department have done a registration of the ancient ruins since 1935.

October clashes

  • On October 3, 2008, Thai and Cambodian troops exchanged fire with each other on the disputed territory near the Preah Vihear Temple. The fighting lasted for nearly three minutes, wounding two Thai soldiers and one Cambodian soldier.

  • On October 4, 2008, commanders of the two countries met at their disputed border area amid accusations that each side had caused a border skirmish on the previous day. Hosted by the Cambodian commander in the area Srey Dek and his Thai counterpart Colonel Chayan Huaysoongnern, the two sides called for the situation to return to normal.

  • On October 6, 2008, two Thai soldiers were wounded by landmines in the border area after allegedly wandering one kilometer into Cambodian territory.

  • On October 13, 2008 Cambodian prime minister, Hun Sen, issued an ultimatum to Thailand to withdraw troops from a disputed border area by noon Tuesday, October 14. Hun Sen said Thai troops had advanced on a border area called Veal Intry (Eagle Field) near the temple in an attempt to occupy Cambodian land near Preah Vihear. "They must withdraw," he said. Thailand's Prime Minister, Somchai Wongsawat, said he had ordered the army to "take care of the situation so there is no violence." "We do not object to redeployment so there is no confrontation," Somchai told reporters, adding that he was not aware of Hun Sen's deadline.

  • On October 14, 2008 Cambodian and Thai forces opened fire on each other once again in the border area, leaving three Cambodian soldiers dead and two Cambodian and seven Thai soldiers wounded. One of the Thai wounded had sustained fatal injuries and died four days later. The Cambodians claimed to have captured 13 Thai soldiers during the battle, but the Thais denied this. Although commanders from both sides were trying to negotiate a cease fire, Thailand urged Thai nationals to leave Cambodia.

  • On October 18, 2008, a Thai soldier was accidentally killed by his own weapon at Phu Ma Khua.

  • On October 21, 2008, one of the Thai soldiers wounded in the October 14th clashes died of his wounds.

April 2009 clashes

On April 2, 2009, fighting between Thai and Cambodian forces left at least 3 Thai soldiers and 2 Cambodian soldiers dead.Cambodia claimed 4 Thai soldiers were killed, 6 wounded, and 10 captured. 2 Cambodian soldiers were also reported killed in the border clash. Just days before this clash, Cambodian officials said that up to 100 Thai soldiers crossed into Cambodian territory and did not leave until Cambodian soldiers showed up and asked them to leave. The Royal Thai Army denied the claim and said that Thai soldiers had not gone anywhere they were not permitted to be. Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen then warned Thailand for the second time that if they (Thai soldiers) cross again, Thai soldiers would face fighting again with Cambodian soldiers. He said, "I tell you first, if you enter (Cambodian territory) again, we will fight. The troops at the border have already received the order."


  • - Cambodia sent a letter to the United Nations Security Council to call attention to the standoff.
  • - Thailand said that the dispute arose from the fact that the Cambodian government used a map drawn during the French occupation of Cambodia—a map that places the temple and surrounding area in Cambodian territory.
  • & – Singapore and Indonesia asked both sides to show restraint.
  • – Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Le Dung said Vietnam wants the two sides to restrain themselves to avoid making the situation complicated and to try to resolve remaining issues through peaceful negotiations in the spirit of friendship and solidarity of the ASEAN, for the interest of both countries and for stability and development of the ASEAN.
  • United Kingdommarker & United Statesmarker urged both countries to show restraint.

See also


External links

Territorial map

Other websites

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