P HA MOR-IDAENG, THAILAND - Thailand is spending big on developing this
mountainous area as a tourist resort, with spectacular views of Preah vihear
temple just three kilometers away on the Cambodian side of the border.
Thai officials continue to insist that the Khmer Rouge inside the temple must
somehow get their supplies up the cliff-face from Cambodia.
food, fuel and maybe ammunition too, comes from the more geographically friendly
Sisaket lawyer Suphan Sakhon reckons that "water is no problem
because there is a well beside the temple." Sakhon, who knows the area well,
says "food is sold to them by neighboring Thai villagers."
governor Jiroj Chotipandha is in charge of carrying instructions from Bangkok to
the governors of the seven Thai provinces bordering Cambodia to crack down on
border trade with the Khmer Rouge. In early January he has issued a formal
warning to all traders to stop their business operations with the Khmer
Opposite Sisaket the governor claimed "all the checkpoints on the
Cambodia side are under Khmer Rouge control."
Although cross-border trade
has been curbed by Bangkok orders, Sakhon said that business between the KR and
Thai still continues.
Chotipandha said: "The Khmer Rouge can climb up
from the Cambodian side" when asked how they maintain their
However, a Thai ranger on border duty at Pha Mor Idaeng said he
had never seen supplies coming up to the temple.
Chotipandha said that
additional Thai troops had been sent to the border in response to recent
fighting near Pra Phalai base. "We have soldiers everywhere along the border;
even volunteer forces, so there is no way that any Khmer can pass into
Presumably there was also "no way" in which the Khmer Rouge
could get fresh supplies to the 10th - century temple without the many Thai
troops stationed at the border knowing about it.
Ministry sources in Phnom Penh claim to have intelligence reports about trucks
having recently visited Preah Vihear Temple under cover of darkness.
Khmer Rouge captured the temple after their failure to disrupt the UN-monitored
elections in May 1993. At the time the Royal Cambodian government accused the
Thai military of permitting the Khmer Rouge to use Thai territory to launch
their attack on a small unit of RCAF soldiers guarding Preah Vihear.
State Department analyst who requested anonymity confirmed the Cambodian
Recent RCAF advances against the Khmer Rouge have drawn several
blasts from the Thai military command regional headquarters in Surin. The Nation
in Bangkok reported a Thai military spokesman saying that shells had been
deliberately fired into Thai territory, and Cambodian forces want to drag
Thailand into their conflict with the Khmer Rouge. Officially, the Thai army
have adopted a neutral stance.
While Thailand has been vociferous in its
response to the slightest threat to its sovereignty posed by Cambodian
government offensives against the Khmer Rouge, there is no record of the Thai
being angered over Khmer Rouge incursions into Thai territory, either at Preah
Vihear or CT-1.
At CT-1, a border point north of Choam Kasan in Thailand,
KR soldiers detained some UNTAC military observers in August 1993.
Cambodian Foreign Ministry has always expressed skepticism about the real
implication of "Thai neutrality" especially in the case of historical Thai
interest in claiming the temple.
Preah Vihear has always beenthe source
of bitter controversy and rival claims between the two countries. Prince Norodom
Sihanouk submitted a case for international arbitration at the international
court in The Hague in the 1960s. To the immense disgust of the Thai military
regime of the day the count decided in favor of Cambodia.
people still harbor resentment over the verdict of the word court, and they
would not have been displeased by the Cambodian government being dispossessed by
Ta Mok's forces.
Chotipandha admitted: "I don't feel anything about the
temple. Thailand does not think about it anymore." It is clear that Thai
authorities and the military are in no rush to see the controversial temple back
in Cambodian government hands.