While browsing through the front page of The Phnom Penh Post online news, an article titled "Thai Web site reignites spat over territory" caught my attention. According to the report, the Thai Web site contains a video claiming part of Cambodia as lost Thai territory. Interestingly, it appears that the Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has shamelessly launched that Web site for political reasons.
It is not new to many Cambodian people that Thailand has been spending a huge amount of time and money in the school system twisting the facts of history in Southeast Asia. Many Cambodian people at home and abroad know that Thai schools have been teaching the students hatred towards the Cambodian people.
Veasna Kuch, a Cambodian immigrant who resides in St Petersburg, Florida, said that he had a dispute with a professor over a Thai history book when he was at the border fighting the Vietnamese invasion during the 1980s. "The professor who taught history at the time was required by the Thai authorities to use a Thai history book from Chulalongkorn University, and the information was not correct", he said. "I know Khmer history, so the Thais were not able to cheat me," he added.
Although, as many of us know, some Thai historians do not agree with Thai history books, the latest political endeavour of the Oxford-educated Abhisit has taken that faulty information to the next level by launching his new Web site. For a short period as the Thai premier, Abhisit has brought more tension, not less. When he made a one-day visit to Cambodia in June 2009, I was hoping that he could strengthen the relationship with Cambodia. But after he returned home, the relationship soon deteriorated when he asked the world heritage body UNESCO to reconsider its decision to formally list the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple in Cambodia.
It seemed that Abhisit had good intentions during the UNESCO meeting in Seville, Spain, also in June 2009. But obviously, while Abhisit's right hand was patting Prime Minister Hun Sen on the back, his left hand was carrying a dagger. He apparently tried to gain supporters in order to distract attention away from his failure by bending the real history.
A politician such as Abhisit who openly manipulates history for his own political purposes goes beyond typical dirty politics. Why would you reinvent history? Let history speak for itself.
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The views expressed above are solely the author's and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.