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The press on Preah Vihear

The press on Preah Vihear

Dear Editor,

While I join the general wish that Cambodia and Thailand find a peaceful solution to the border standoff as soon as possible, I was surprised and more than a little disappointed to see the international news media, in particular 24-hour news channels BBC World Service and Channel News Asia, continue to propagate certain errors of reportage and give credence to one of the falsehoods central to the current dispute.

It was with particular dismay that I listened to the BBC's correspondent refer to Preah Vihear as "a Hindu temple". Describing Preah Vihear as "a Hindu temple" affects the international impression of the temple, the origins of the dispute and its current character, obscuring, as it does, the origin of the temple. Preah Vihear is not a Hindu temple. It was not built by ethnic Hindus, but by ethnic Khmers, making it a Khmer temple. Just as Angkor Wat is not a Hindu temple, but a Khmer temple.

However, more serious than this was the BBC's continued use of phrases including "disputed territory surrounding the temple" and the idea that the border has never been settled. Anyone who has read the judgement of the International Court of Justice will know that the border was most definitely settled as being that shown on the Annex 1 map. That map was drawn by the French authorities in 1907 and subsequently used by both French Indo-China and Siam. These facts were and are integral to the judgement of the ICJ, and that judgement most clearly states that not only does Preah Vihear stand on sovereign Cambodian soil (as begrudgingly accepted by Thailand) as shown by the Annex 1 map, but that simultaneously, and as a direct consequence, the border between the two countries is that shown on the Annex 1 map and not the bare extremities of the temple, as claimed by successive Thai regimes.

The government of Thailand is lying to itself and its people with its continued insistence that the border has never been settled. The border was settled by the ICJ. The BBC is perpetuating this lie by giving credence to it. The border was legally settled in 1962, and since that time Thailand has been in contravention of international law by its continued occupation of sovereign Cambodian soil in the area it refers to as Kao Phra Viharn National Park.

Cambodia's patient endurance of this national insult for 46 years has only emboldened the Thais to the point where they think they can dictate to a third party how that third party will deal with Cambodia over issues of management of a national monument on sovereign soil.

That the BBC, among others, continues to express these half-truths without explaining all the facts is disappointing. Disappointing that they have skipped on their professional duties to portray all the facts, and worrying that the world at large is learning only these half-truths. Armed clashes between nations are serious, surely they deserve serious reportage.

Aaron Leverton

Phnom Penh

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