Thomico's Open letter to Thai PM ... But, Prince, where is your open letter to the Viet leaders on Viet encroachments?

Monday, August 2, 2010

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August 2, 2010

His Excellency Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva
Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand
Care of the Royal Thai Embassy
Phnom Penh
Kingdom of Cambodia

Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

Please convey to His Majesty the King of Thailand my very respectful homages and my wishes for a long life, good health and a long and prosperous reign.

I present to Your Excellency and to the eminent members of the Royal Thai Government as well my compliments.

I feel great admiration for the impressive economic, social and cultural development that the Kingdom of Thailand has achieved in recent decades, and particularly for the strong commitment to education that has underpinned the country’s rise. And I feel particularly grateful to the Kingdom of Thailand for the important role it played in the recent past to help Cambodia recover her sovereignty and put an end to two decades of conflict and suffering.

The Khmer people have no other desire than to heal the wounds of the past and live peacefully. As a member of the international community, of global and regional organizations, Cambodia wishes to achieve its development in harmony with every country, to nurture and reinforce relationships of friendship and cooperation with every nation, and above all with our direct neighbors.

The Kingdom of Cambodia and the Kingdom of Thailand have a long history together, marked indeed by conflicts but also by periods of peace during which exchanges between the two countries have greatly benefited both. We share a common civilization, culture, and religion. Whatever may separate us is not as strong as that which binds us together.

For these reasons it has been especially painful to witness the fast deterioration of relations between our two countries over the last two years. Both our populations are easily stirred by the ultra-nationalistic rhetoric of a minority. But a calm appraisal of history should make it clear that the territorial claims that have so animated the recent popular and political discourse in Thailand have no basis.

That history, in fact, is not a pretty one. The borders between our two countries have indeed been imposed on us by colonial powers who respected nothing but their own interests. While the Kingdom of Thailand was not colonized by Western powers, Khmers and Thais both can rightfully consider themselves victims of this colonial past. I understand the feeling of injustice borne by the Thai people against the impositions made on them by foreign powers. As a Cambodian, I cannot forget that the Governor of Cochinchina, Charles Thomson, arrayed guns in front of the Royal Palace to force HM King Norodom to sign the infamous 1884 Convention. Neither do I forget that the 1896 Convention was adopted by the United Kingdom and France in contempt of both Cambodia and Thailand.

The current Thai territorial claims, just like the 1954 fait accompli against Preah Vihear, use geographical criteria as justification, and as demonstration of how unjust the 1904 Border Treaty was. Natural features such as streams, watershed boundaries, mountain ridges, and escarpment lines, are indeed used to demarcate borders between countries. Bear in mind, however, that ethnic and linguistic considerations are also important criteria. From this point of view, it is undeniable that the 1904 Border Treaty left millions of Khmers separated from their motherland. Cambodia has been torn apart and left in pieces by foreign powers in full contempt of the aspirations of its people. If our two nations have a claim to historical injustice, it should be clear that Cambodia bears the greater burden.

In that era, it must be noted, a people’s right to self-determination was not yet part of international law. Nonetheless, the result today is that more Khmers are living outside of Cambodia, including in Thailand, than on Cambodian soil. Should ethnic and linguistic criteria have been used to demarcate the borders between Cambodia and Thailand, the outcome would have been completely different.

The example of ex-Yugoslavia, artificially created by the superpowers in full contempt of the regional historical, cultural, religious and ethnic realities, the ensuing conflicts of Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo show how fragile those manipulations are and how evil their consequences have been.

In this regard, and as far as nationalistic overbidding is concerned, Cambodia could rightfully be in a position to denounce the 1904 Treaty in order to take into consideration the ethnic and linguistic criteria. Then there would be no Preah Vihear issue as the temple and its surroundings would consequently be located deep inside Cambodia -- where they belong.

But ever since full independence in 1953, under the leadership of then-Prince Sihanouk, Cambodia has only demanded the de jure recognition by its neighbors and by the international community of its borders in accordance with treaties imposed in the 20th century. This is still true today: Cambodia has no other claim.

Our two nations are fated to live side by side. We are both members of ASEAN, a regional organization which aspires, as the European Union has done, to open borders among nations to free the creative energies that are the source of sustainable development. Raising territorial claims is a futile attempt that flies in the face of history, and that harms our peoples by diverting significant resources that could otherwise be invested in development and the fight against poverty on both sides of our shared border.

As a Cambodian - and I am convinced that millions of Khmers do share my feeling - my dearest wish, Your Excellency, would be to see Preah Vihear standing as the enduring symbol of the reconciliation between our two nations, of the harmony of our relationship, and a model of fruitful cooperation between two neighbors.

Please accept, Mr. Prime Minister, the assurances of my very high consideration.

(signed) Sisowath Thomico


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