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Pavin Chachavalpongpun*
In Asian Affiars, 43:1, 81-102, (March 2012).

In 1978, American political scientist Walter Vella stated, “Like any system of loyalty, nationalism has its virtues and its faults. Its good lies in its power to unite; its bad lies in its power to divide.”[1] This assessment of nationalism has never gone out of fashion. Countries fabricate history to celebrate their past, using nationalism as a political tool in the manipulation of public opinion. As history is remodelled for new political agendas, old wounds are reopened. Past bilateral conflicts are refreshed. The current state of Thai-Cambodian relations has been ostensibly moulded by the powerful, yet dangerous, sentiment of nationalism which has its deep roots in the bitter historical relations between the two kingdoms, whose leaders have, over the years, exploited nationalism to promote their own interests, even at the risk of armed conflict. The ransacking of the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh in January 2003 and the recent eruption of armed conflicts between Thailand and Cambodia over the Hindu Temple of Preah Vihear, known in Thai as Phra Wihan, exemplify the impact of nationalism and historical embeddedness. Contemporary Thai-Cambodian relations have become a casualty of the remade past.

This article discusses why and how historical embeddedness has endured in the Thai-Cambodian context despite continuing changes in the international environment. The ongoing dispute over the Preah Vihear Temple is examined as an example of the nexus between the manipulation of history and foreign relations. The article argues that historical embeddedness has been sustained by the myth of “lost territories”, by distorted historical textbooks and by a provocative media. Whenever political leaders encountered legitimacy crises at home, they diverted the people’s attention from domestic issues by fanning the flame of nationalism. In the process, they rekindled bitter memories of the historical past to justify their foreign policy toward their neighbours, reflecting the state’s perception of itself as a virtuous “self” versus the stereotypical “other”. Domestic politics has been the main source of bilateral tensions between Thailand and Cambodia.

Conceptualising Historical Embeddedness

According to Ernest Gellner, Eric Hobsbawm and Benedict Anderson, a nation is socially and historical rooted and inevitably includes element of construction through abstract and concrete processes.[2] On this analysis, the formation of a nation is embedded in particular social relations and history. In the case of Thailand, specific historical experience, for example long years of despotic rule, and a sense of external threat, either perceived or real, have been largely responsible for the continued dominance of a concept of nation which stresses internal solidarity and submission to collectivist goals. In this context, as Gi-Wook Shin argues, history is embedded and then employed to explain the continuing power and vitality of a nation in the contemporary period.[3] Historical embeddedness lends itself to the rise of nationalism that demands certain sacrifices from the populace and leaders recognise  the need to underpin historical embeddedness so as to justify their nationalist agendas. This has led to what Chris Healy calls an obsession with preserving social and historical memory even when such memory portrays the vulnerability of a nation.[4]

Thai-Cambodian relations have suffered greatly from historical embeddedness and the misuse of nationalism particularly on the part of Thailand. The Thai historian Charnvit Kasetsiri once wrote:

Among the neighbouring countries of Southeast Asia, none seems more similar to Thailand than Cambodia (perhaps not even excluding Laos and the “Tai” people scattered throughout such countries as Burma, Vietnam, and southern China). Both nations share similar customs, traditions, beliefs, and ways of life. This is especially true of royal customs, language, writing systems, vocabulary, literature, and the dramatic arts. In light of these similarities, it seems surprising, therefore, that relations between Thailand and Cambodia should be characterised by deep-seated “ignorance, misunderstanding, and prejudice.” Indeed, the two countries have what can be termed “a love-hate relationship”.[5]

 Thailand and Cambodia share an approximately 800-kilometre long border. Historically, their respective peoples, the Siamese and Khmers, had continually interacted through the exchange of culture, marriage and trade. Such interaction even predated the Sukhothai kingdom, supposedly the first Thai kingdom that came into being in 1238. From the period of Sukhothai to the rise of Ayutthaya, another supposed Thai kingdom founded in 1351, the Siamese looked up to their Khmer neighbours and embraced their advanced civilisation. Successive Siamese kings were filled with tremendous admiration for anything Khmer, ranging from the art, architecture, language and royal rituals. David Wyatt said that Ayutthaya inherited much from Angkor as the former was rising to become a major power in mainland Southeast Asia.[6] But the Khmer civilisation eventually sank into decline. In 1431, Ayutthaya’s army invaded and destroyed Angkor, the seat of the Khmer Empire, transforming this ancient kingdom into one of Siam’s vassals.[7] The collapse of Angkor can be compared to the fall of Ayutthaya in 1767, but Thai historians have been reluctant to make this analogy as it would cast Thais in the role of “villains”.[8]

The love-hate relationship between the Siamese and Khmers persisted after the end of Angkor era. As Siam was busy fending off Burmese incursions, the Khmers often took the opportunity to attack Ayutthaya from the east. In revenge, according to the Thai chronicles, King Naresuan of Ayutthaya (1590-1605) ordered the capture of Lovek, the capital of the Khmer kingdom at the time, and beheaded its ruler, Phraya Lovek. Naresuan then washed his feet with Phraya Lovek’s blood.[9] While the Siamese perceived Lovek as a rebel against Ayutthaya’s monarch, he was considered by Cambodian historians as a hero who fought for the kingdom’s freedom. The unequal relations between Siam and Cambodia throughout the pre-colonial period profoundly deepened the feeling of mutual distrust. But Siam was not the only eminent power in this sub-region. Vietnam also expanded its influence over Cambodia. As a result, Cambodia often found itself squeezed between two powerful overlords, Siam and Vietnam. Thongchai Winichakul asserted that the contest between the two overloads over Cambodia was further intensified and complicated by factional fighting within the Cambodian court from the 18th-19th centuries. Whenever a faction sought support from one overlord, the loser sought the other’s protection. In the meantime, the Cambodian kings always attempted to balance the overlord’s power by blurring the line of allegiance in order to make the kingdom somewhat independent.[10] It is therefore convenient for the Thais to conclude, based on their arbitrary historical perspective, that the Khmers were cowardly but opportunistic, striking only when Siam was in trouble.[11]

With the advent of colonialism, King Norodom of Cambodia (1860-1904) signed an agreement with France in 1863 to institute a protectorate over his vulnerable kingdom against the two oppressive neighbours — Siam and Vietnam, and eventually became a part of the French Indochina. The new international order based on colonial politics served to  catalyse a process of historical embeddedness that was already launched. The force of colonial politics pressured Siam to conclude a treaty with France in 1907. Consequently, Siam ceded the Cambodian provinces of Battambang, Sisophon and Siem Reap to the French protectorate of Cambodia (as it had done in the 1890s with the Lao vassal territories on the eastern side of the Mekong River). The Siamese-Cambodian border was demarcated based on the watershed as indicated in a map sketched in 1904 by the supposed “joint committee” consisting of Siamese and French surveyors.[12] Since then, Siam’s loss of the Cambodian provinces to the French has been played up as a major theme of Thai nationalism—the theme which centres upon the loss of “Thai territories” to greedy foreign powers and opportunistic neighbours. The discourse of lost territories remains authoritative and is a key ingredient of Thailand’s nationalistic foreign policy. It has also entrenched the historical emdeddedness in bilateral relations, especially since Thailand has made repeated claims of its ownership of the Preah Vihear Temple which is located in its supposedly lost territories.

Arriving in power in 1938, Field Marshal Plaek Phibun Songkhram began the process of re-glorifying Siam’s history and revived the issue of lost territories in order to legitimise his military regime. Phibun embarked on the campaign to recover the lost provinces from the French. He collaborated closely with Luang Wichit Wathakan, a prolific nationalist writer and composer, to reconstruct a Thai history that projected the country’s recent vulnerability and  its past greatness. The Phibun government, for example, printed a map which showed Cambodia as being historically a Thai territory. It also claimed that the Thais and Khmers were one and the same people. France had to warn Phibun against harbouring any designs on Cambodia.[13] Phibun’s irredentist claims effectively provoked anti-French sentiment in Bangkok, subsequently leading to a series of skirmishes with French troops on the Thai-Cambodian border. In the meantime, Phibun implemented a pro-Japanese foreign policy; the Franco-Siamese conflict allowed Japan to reciprocate. In 1941, Japan “mediated” in the conflict and gave the disputed areas in Cambodia and Laos back to Thailand.[14] Not until 1947, two years after Japan had lost the war, was Thailand forced to return the Cambodian provinces back to France.[15] King Norodom Sihanouk mentioned in his book Sweet and Sour Memories that Cambodia’s territory had become “whole again”.[16]

 The historic Thai political domination of Cambodia had an enormous effect on their bilateral relationship in the post-Second World War period. In 1950, as Cambodia obtained independent status within the French Union, Thailand became the first country to establish diplomatic relations with Phnom Penh; in 1953, Cambodia regained full independence; two years later, King Sihanouk abdicated in favour of his father and elections were held. This marked the beginning of the “Sihanouk era” in Cambodian politics. But this era was marred by heightened mutual suspicion. Cambodia broke off its diplomatic relations with Thailand twice, in 1958 and 1961, allegedly as a protest against the Thai claim for the Preah Vihear Temple. In 1958, the Thai Foreign Ministry unleashed its own propaganda against Cambodia, claiming:

With the support and approval of the Cambodian Government, campaigns for the cession of Khao Phra Viharn began in the Cambodian press and radio. The Cambodian people were told that Thailand was their enemy and was trying to destroy their newly-gained independence by occupying Khao Phra Viharn and by coveting other parts of their country as well…How could we think, for one moment, what useful purpose would serve Thailand to look upon our neighbour as an enemy.[17]

 In retaliation, an article in La Dépêche du Cambodge, a newspaper under the political direction of the then Cambodian Prime Minister Sim Var, said that the Garuda in the Thai national emblem should be replaced by the vulture.[18] The tension caused by mutual insults against their national dignity and the in-progress conflict over the temple ownership pushed Thailand and Cambodia further to the brink of engaging in a full-scale war. In 1962, they took the temple dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Thai Prime Minister Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat (1959-1963) called on Thais to display their love for the nation in the battle to regain Thailand’s lost property. His government urged each Thai to donate one baht toward the expense for the court case.[19] The ICJ finally ruled in Cambodia’s favour. Sarit, in his nationalistic response to the ICJ ruling, said, “With blood and tears, we shall recover the Phra Viharn one day.”[20]

Interestingly, after the 1970 Lon Nol coup ousting Sihanouk, Thailand resumed diplomatic relations with Cambodia, as both countries were on the same side in the Vietnam war. 1975 saw the take-over by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge regime, which resulted in the tragic deaths of some three million people [21]. The genocide stopped in 1978, after Vietnam invaded Cambodia, though the outbreak of the Cambodian-Vietnamese war made Thailand’s relations with Phnom Penh more complicated. It is important to note that the Sino-Soviet ideological split deeply polarised the communists in Indochina. Whereas China backed the Khmer Rouge in resisting the Vietnamese, the Soviet Union aligned itself with Hanoi. These external factors, reinforced long-lasting role historical embeddedness in Thai-Cambodian ties. Thailand, anxious not to end up as the last domino in mainland Southeast Asia,. established diplomatic relations with China in 1975. It hoped that détente with China and the support given to the Khmer Rouge would contain the military advance of Vietnam. The Khmer Rouge survived their expulsion from Cambodia thanks to a steady supply of arms from Vietnam’s traditional enemy, China, delivered to the Khmer Rouge by the Thai forces who wanted a buffer against the Vietnamese.[22] In the context of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Thailand successfully Aseanised its anti-Vietnam policy, by exploiting its position as a frontline state vis-à-vis the communist threat.

But the history lives on. Recently when the Preah Vihear issue was resurrected, Ouk Sophoin, Chargé d’Affaires of the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok, responded to an article published in the Bangkok Post by asking, provocatively, “Do you know the name of the neighbouring country which helped and sheltered the Khmer Rouge in the 1980s and for most of the 1990s?”[23] Obviously, Sophoin refreshed the past in order to justify his government’s current policy toward Thailand. Sophoin’s technique of invoking history an innovation. Throughout the 20th century, the elites of both countries had been preoccupied with constructing their countries’ identities based on nationalism and external threats. Cambodia has been portrayed as one of Thailand’s traditional enemies and arbitrarily used to legitimise the regime of the day, and vice versa. The nation-building process has continued to breathe new life into the historical embeddedness in the Thai-Cambodia relationship.

Factors Underpinning the Indignant Past 

Two factors have fortified the power of historical embeddedness in Thai-Cambodian relations, firstly the concept of lost territories both in the historical and contemporary contexts, secondly the transmission of a distorted view of history through use of state propaganda devices, such as education and the media, which have become an essential element of nation-building—the building of a nation that is superior to its neighbour.

The Lost Territories Enigma

Nidhi Eoseewong argued that Thai historiography as it has been produced over the last two centuries originated out of a desire on the part of the Thai elite to define a Thai self that has periodically faced a threat to the nation’s integrity from outsiders.[24] Many countries around the world claimed to have lost some of their territories unjustly to foreign powers or immoral neighbours. Thongchai Winichakul observed, “Lao nationalists talk about losing the Isaan (northeast) region to Thailand. Cambodian nationalists talk about losing territories to Thailand and Vietnam. They produce maps of lost territories like Thai nationalists did for generations. Thais have been taught that their territories were lost as well. Every country lost territories. The idea of loss is a powerful tool used to whip up nationalism, especially in domestic politics.”[25] In the Thai case, official history tells the tale of the loss of the supposedly Thai territories to Britain (northern Malay states) and France (Cambodian provinces).[26] Accordingly, the concept of lost territories has constantly been projected far into the past as though Siam had always been a kingdom with precise boundaries within which sovereignty was exercised. Sukhothai, Ayutthaya and Thonburi were all imagined as old capitals of this bounded Thailand, even though the notion of sovereignty only arrived with Western mapping technology during the colonial period. In reality, the Siamese and Khmers had been in contacts for centuries without the benefit of, or need for, the modern concept of a clear-cut boundary. Thailand’s reinvention of history was designed to justify the campaign to recuperate lost territories.

In 1893, the French forced Siam to surrender its control over the left bank of the Mekong River. They sent gunboats to block the mouth of the Chao Phraya River, in what  is known as the Pak Nam crisis. While Thai history paints the French as an aggressor, it exhibits the vulnerable side of the Siamese kingdom. But Thongchai provocatively argues that rather than seeing the 1893 incident as the Siamese “lamb” being terrorised by the French “wolf” leading to the “loss” of part of “Thailand,” the incident should be interpreted as the “big wolf” of France and the “small wolf” of Siam fighting over the “lambs” of Lao and Cambodian territories.[27] A similar distortion of history happened following the adverse outcome of the Phra Viharn ICJ case in 1962. This played into the hands of the authoritarian regime of Sarit, who  immediately lit the fire of nationalism among the Thais by underlining the theme of lost territories. He took advantage of the ICJ ruling to construct a new history for the Phra Viharn. Sarit saw the loss of the temple, which, he claimed, had been fiercely defended throughout the history by courageous Thai ancestors, as the loss of another piece of Thai territory. He urged the Thais to always remember that the temple was stolen by the enemy who lacked dignity and legitimacy with its abhorrent tactics.[28] Yet, successive Thai governments never challenged the ICJ verdict simply because they were unable to find new evidence to counter the earlier ruling.

Similarly, Cambodia has reconstructed its own version of history to invalidate the Thai claim. The issue of lost territories is highlighted to inflame a sense of nationalism and to seek the people’s support for, and submission, to the state’s policy. In January 2003, the Royal Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh was burned down by the so-called Cambodian nationalists. A few days earlier, a local Cambodian newspaper reported that Suvanand Kongying, a famous Thai actress, had declared that the Angkor Wat belonged to Thailand. Her alleged statement immediately aggravated a great resentment inside Cambodia. Hun Sen angrily responded, “Suvanand was not even worth a blade of grass at Angkor.”[29] However, the underlying concern might not really have been about protecting the dignity of Cambodia’s territorial integrity: a Cambodian general election was around the corner and the conflict with Thailand could be used to rally support.  The opposition party blamed Hun Sen for a plot to divert public attention away from his government’s inability to wipe out corruption and its willingness to allow Vietnamese candidates to run in the election under his party, the Cambodian People’s Party (CCP). The Thaksin Shinawatra government (2001-2006), despite enjoying an intimate relationship with the Cambodian leaders, was taken completely by surprise by Phnom Penh’s tacit encouragement of a serious violation of international law. The Thais considered the Cambodians were jeopardising bilateral ties for domestic reasons. Meanwhile, Thai media reported that Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej said to a group of furious Thai protesters gathering in front of the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok, “Do not forget who we are. We are phu dee (those of high class).”[30]

Distorted Textbooks and Provocative Media

Historical embededness has in part been kept alive, replicated and refined by the state education and media. The Thai and Cambodian states continue to produce arbitrary textbooks and to manipulate the media in order to underline their nation’s  greatness  and belittle their neighbour. But are they really fighting to safeguard the nation’s identity and its historical significance? Or are they in fact, fighting to defend political hegemony both domestically  and in foreign relations?

In Thailand, the state has promoted Thai history through school textbooks under an overriding royalist-nationalist theme (prawathisat baeb rachachatniyom),. Thai students learn how the Siamese kingdom had to succumb to foreign invaders throughout its history, but the nation survived because of the wisdom and farsightedness of the Thai monarchs. The number-one enemy of the Thai kingdom has been the Burmese who sacked the old Ayutthaya kingdom not once, but twice. While the tale of Siam being a ruthless destroyer of Angkor is missing in Thai textbooks, humiliating images of the Cambodians, such as the cowardly and opportunistic Khmer King Lovek, are particularly highlighted to make Thai superiority apparent.[31] The issue of lost territories is also included in the historical textbooks, including the loss of Preah Vihear Temple to Cambodia in 1962. Indeed, the Thai name of Phra Wihan only appears in school textbooks, since it is generally believed that the name was linked to ownership. The name Preah Vihear/Phra Wihan posed as a major stumbling block during the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) in February 2009; each side insisted on using their own dialect in reference to the disputed temple.

Charnvit has  stressed how Preah Vihear has haunted the Thais in different stages of history, asserting “Thai bitterness over the Preah Vihear stemmed largely from what can be termed as ‘inadequate history’ — history learning that is distorted by the sense of nationalism.”[32] Ultimately, problems in Thai-Cambodian relations have been sustained largely by nationalist history taught in the schools and popularised through state channels and the commercial media.[33] These factors have eclipsed the work of bilateral mechanisms such as the Thai-Cambodian Joint Commission, founded in the aftermath of the attack on the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh in 2003, and designed to promote good ties between the two countries through exchanges covering  culture, history and tourism.[34]

 Preah Vihear

The Preah Vihear dispute was revitalised in 2008, 46 years after the ICJ ruling, when the royalist People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) and the opposition Democrat Party seized the chance to politicise the issue and unleash the forces of nationalism, after Prime Minister, Samak Sundaravej the political nominee of Thaksin, appointed Noppadon Pattama, Thaksin’s former personal lawyer, as foreign minister, In May 2008, Noppadon, on behalf of the Thai government, signed in Paris a Joint Communiqué with Cambodia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Sok An, to confirm Thai support for Cambodia’s request to the United Nation Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to have the temple listed as a World Heritage Site. Upon returning to Bangkok, Noppadon was greeted by infuriated PAD nationalists at the airport, shouting “Noppadon is a traitor.”[35]

Proclaiming themselves as defenders of the Thai nation, the PAD and the Democrat Party reproached Thaksin and his cronies for their willingness to sacrifice Thai territories in exchange for personal benefits. They connected the Preah Vihear issue to the loss of Thailand’s territorial integrity. They deliberately obscured the fact that UNESCO had earlier clarified that Cambodia’s request had nothing to do with remaining boundary disputes or overlapping sovereignty between the two countries, especially over the contentious 4.6 square kilometres that surround the temple. False memories of the loss of territories evoked  paranoid nationalistic anxiety and convinced many Thais that the country was poised to lose its sovereignty over the surrounding areas because of the traitorous Joint Communiqué. In response, Noppadon claimed that while the Samak government had worked conscientiously to promote amicable relations with Cambodia, the PAD and the opposition party wanted to turn this friendly marketplace back into a battlefield.

The PAD and the Democrat Party then resurrected the Thai taboo of khai chat, or selling the country-a serious accusation in Thailand. Siamese monarchs have been incessantly extolled for cherishing the kingdom’s territorial integrity and the inherent sacredness of the motherland soil (phaendin). But, according to the PAD and the Democrat Party, Thaksin, Samak and Noppadon had betrayed their own nation by cooperating with the Cambodian leader,Hun Sen. Thus, the behaviour of modern-day leaders was judged by that of past kings, thus drawing on the continuing process of historical embeddedness in which the present is never free from the past. The PAD revealed that Thaksin had recently signed a commercial deal with Hun Sen for a development project in Cambodia’s Koh Kong, and that the Thai support for the World Heritage Listing of the temple was a part of the deal.[36] Cambodian Defence Minister General Teah Banh subsequently confirmed that Thaksin was planning large-scale investments in Cambodia, with Koh Kong serving only as his first step in his business ventures in the country.[37] It was reported that Thaksin eyed Koh Kong as a prime location for his casino and entertainment complex, purportedly called “Modern City”.[38] Hun Sen was said to be pleased with Thaksin’s proposal and was keen to work with him because Thaksin was “trustworthy”.[39] Meanwhile, during the parliamentary no-confidence debate, from 23–25 June 2008, Abhisit, leader of the Democrat Party, further provoked nationalist feelings calling on “all MPs who are “Thai” to vote against Prime Minister Samak and Foreign Minister Noppadon for abusing their constitutional power involving the Preah Vihear issue. It is time for the Thais to have a government that is grateful to its Thai ancestors and knows how to prioritise the nation’s interests”.[40] Under extreme pressure, Noppadon was forced to resign from the post of foreign minister. During his farewell speech at the foreign ministry, Noppadon insisted “I did not sell my country.”[41]

When Cambodia moved to occupy the disputed area surrounding the Preah Vihear temple,  the PAD and the Democrat Party also reinvigorated the negative image of Cambodia as Thailand’s archrival. Sondhi Limthongkul, the PAD leader, recommended a resolution of the conflict by force. He said, “Our sacred mission is to protect our motherland and take back Thai territory”, adding Thailand should formally inform Cambodia that, “apart from the Preah Vihear Temple, the surroundings belong to Thailand, and Thailand would pay any price to protect its sovereignty, even at the cost of war.[42]”  The PAD’s wish came true. One Thai and three Cambodian soldiers died in an exchange of rifle and rocket fire when their troops clashed on the border in October 2008. This was not the last armed clash between the two countries.

Dehumanising the External Enemy

After the dissolution of the Thaksin-backed People’s Power Party, the Democrat Party formed a coalition government in December 2008 and the game of retaliation began. Hun Sen, realised that Thaksin, his long-term business partner, still commanded loyalty among his rural supporters. Thus, support for Thaksin was in Hun Sen’s long-term interests and he worked closely with Thaksin to discredit the Abhisit regime, beginning by  directly criticising Thailand’s political instability and its failure to achieve internal political reconciliation. He then suggested that because of its internal political bickering Thailand should be deprived of the Chairmanship of the ASEAN Standing Committee which it was due to assume from July 2008-December 2009. Cambodian diplomats also followed up Hun Sen’s policy of legitimising Cambodia’s involvement in Thai politics. In November 2009, You Ay, former Cambodian Ambassador to Bangkok, criticised an article in the Nation on Cambodia, once again by referring to history, “When you stated that the…Cambodia premier thought he was still leading some Khmer Rouge faction…you are absolutely dead wrong. It was Samdech Techo Hun Sen, who struggled and brought the demise of the Khmer Rouge. Prime Minister Hun Sen could have done it much earlier, if a neighbouring country had not given shelter to the Khmer Rouge. It was also Samdech Techo Hun Sen who brought the Khmer Rouge leaders to the Extraordinary Chamber of Courts of Cambodia (ECCC).”[43]

The same month, Hun Sen provocatively announced that he felt Thaksin had been  unfairly treated by the Thai government and that he would offer one of his luxurious mansions to receive Thaksin if the latter wanted refuge in Cambodia, and would not extradite him.[44] A few days later during the ASEAN Summit in Hua Hin, Hun Sen further irritated Thai patriots by announcing that Thaksin would be appointed as his government’s economic advisor. The appointment was made official by virtue of a Royal Decree on 4 November 2009. In the meantime, it was alleged that Hun Sen granted Thaksin a Cambodian passport.[45] The Cambodian leader carried on releasing contentious statements to disparage the Thai government and question its legitimacy. Hun Sen compared Thaksin with Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy of Burma, and also offered his support to the red-shirted protesters in Thailand, stating, “As one million Thai people of the red-shirted group support Thaksin, why cannot I, as a friend from afar, support Thaksin?”[46]

Hun Sen’s offensive move sorely raised the political temperature in Thailand. The PAD condemned Hun Sen for meddling in Thailand’s internal affairs and impugning its judicial system. Major-General Chamlong Srimuang, one of the PAD’s leaders, accused Thaksin of treachery in using a neighbouring nation to push his personal political agenda in Thailand.[47] At the same time, the government adopted harsher diplomatic measures against Cambodia. On 6 November 2009, The Thai Foreign Ministry recalled its ambassador to Phnom Penh to protest against the official appointment of Thaksin as Hun Sen’s economic advisor. It also decided to review all bilateral agreements with Cambodia and pull out of maritime talks, which would have covered potential rich supplies of oil and gas in a disputed area of the eastern Gulf of Thailand. Cambodia retaliated by recalling its ambassador to Bangkok. So far, while border trade has continued as usual with no restrictions on Thais visiting Cambodia, the situation along their common border has been tense. The Thai military, exploiting the notion of national security and nationalism, painted a deadly scenario of a possible new round of armed clashes. It built 340 bunkers in two schools and several villages in Si Sa Ket near the site of the Preah Vihear as a sign of unease that has swept through this border town.[48]

Portraying Thailand as a nation under attack by the enemy paid dividends in domestic political terms. According to a poll conducted by Assumption University from 25 October to 5 November 2009, Abhisit’s popularity had almost tripled from 23.3 per cent in September 2009 to 68.6 per cent in its later poll in the aftermath of Hun Sen’s attack on the Thai judicial system and the appointment of Thaksin.[49] Countering the rise of Abhisit’s popularity in Thailand, Thaksin paid a visit to Cambodia on 12 November 2009 at the invitation of Hun Sen and gave a lecture to Cambodian government officials. He later travelled to Siem Reap to play golf with the Cambodian leader and met with a group of his red-shirted supporters with intent to aggravate the Abhisit administration. It is evident that the pro-Thaksin opposition party, the Puea Thai (For Thai), and Cambodia’s Hun Sen have openly joined forces in contesting Abhisit’s legitimacy. In particular, Hun Send took every opportunity to label the Abhisit’s government as his country’s foe, just like Abhisit and the PAD earlier nominated the Khmers as Thailand’s enemy. Hun Sen said in December 2009, “I am not the enemy of the Thai people. But the Prime Minister (Abhisit) and the Foreign Minister (Kasit) look down on Cambodia extremely. Cambodia will have no happiness as long as this group is in power in Thailand.”[50] The Cambodian premier, again, made headlines across the region in February 2010, when he launched crude remarks against Abhisit:

I am angry at a few people in Thailand. I am not angry at the whole Siamese people…“You (Abhisit) are a thief who stole power (from Thaksin).  If you don’t believe me, then let hold an election and you (Abhisit) will lose…If you don’t speak the truth about Siamese troops invading Cambodia on 15 July 2008, let the sacred powers break your (Abhisit’s) neck, let you be shot dead, be crushed to death by a car, be electrocuted or shot dead by a stray bullet…Not only that Thailand invaded (Cambodia), but they also invaded and cheated in history by changing the name of Prasart Preah Vihear into Phra Wihan…If Thai troops did not intrude into Wat Keo Sekkha Kiri Savarak, let bad luck befall on me…I have chided you many times before. Do you (Abhisit) feel hurt?  If you retaliate, I will hit back at you again…I have sent a letter to tell the Siamese people that there has never been a period when the Siamese society is so chaotic as the period under Abhisit. Thai foreign relations are also bad…You (Abhisit) ordered the yellow shirts (PAD) to stage the coup and to seize the airports…Would Abhisit take an oath that his family will perish in a plane crash that the Siam troops did not invade Cambodia?…He (Abhisit) is crazy, confused and deserves to be eliminated. This guy has no honour for his family.[51]

On 10 February 2010, the Cambodian government sent a strongly-worded letter to the Internet giant Google, complaining that its online Google Earth map incorrectly places parts of the 11th century Preah Vihear temple in Thailand. It lambasted the map for being “devoid of truth and reality and professionally irresponsible, if not pretentious”.[52]  It was not just the government. A Cambodian writer informed an online public forum:

Thais are thieves who stole Khmer creation and claimed as Thais. Even Muay Thai (Thai boxing) has its Khmer creation. Khmer alphabets, Khmer vowels and Khmer numerals are today used by Thais. Thais have never given the credit or mentioned the Khmers who helped Thai ancestors from the Mongol killing or helped Siam from the Burmese occupation, but to claim every Khmer creation belonged to Thais. Yet, Thais were the destroyers of Khmer temples and now they are collecting tourist money from Khmer temples. Thais are the (most) shameless people on earth.[53]

Supalak Ganjanakhundee points out that it is the first time in modern history that a Cambodian leader has openly played internal Thai politics. Normally, the Thais influence Cambodian domestic politics, supporting the Cambodian opposition to destabilise the regime in Phnom Penh. Hun Sen himself had gained first-hand experience of this during the 1980s when Thailand backed the Opposition Coalition, including the Khmer Rouge, against him. Many of his political enemies sought refuge in Thailand. Supalak added, “Hun Sen probably thinks now is the time to pay back.”[54] Charnvit noted that during the Cambodian conflict, Thailand supported the Khmer Rouge. But now, Hun Sen was doing the same thing by supporting the Thai Rouge (the red-shirts).[55] From this perspective, Hun Sen was crafting his country’s foreign policy toward Thailand, using the historical context in which the Thais were heavily involved with the Khmer Rouge to validate his hostility towards the Thai government. Hun Sen has continued to call the historical name of Thailand “Siem”, a term used by Cambodians in reference to Siam, which often connotes a sense of historical antipathy. So, an amalgam of false history, negative memories, nationalism and political crises at home combined to have a damaging impact on the bilateral relationship.

The 2011 Armed Clashes

In early February 2011, months of intense bilateral relations finally erupted in  violent clashes between Thai and Cambodian troops, with  gunfire and artillery duels, killing at least two Thais and eight Cambodians. Over 3,000 Thais were evacuated from a village close to where the incident took place. The Preah Vihear Temple itself was damaged by artillery fire from Thai guns. The armed clashes lasted from February until May 2011. It all began on 29 December 2010 with the PAD dispatching some of its members, together with a member of parliament from the ruling Democrat Party, Panich Vikitsreth, to illegally cross into Cambodia purportedly to show that the Cambodian authorities had actually occupied what was supposed to be Thai territory. In an attempt to justify their entry into Cambodia, reference was made to the Thai historical claim of ownership of the disputed area. Veera Somkwamkit, a PAD member, said in a video clip “We are about to cross this border; and beyond this point it is Cambodian territory. However, this area was traditionally and historically under Thai sovereignty but the Khmers stole it from Thailand.”[56] Eventually, the Thai intruders were arrested and locked up in a Phnom Penh prison. Two are still there.

On the surface, the PAD’s venture into Cambodian territory could be perceived as an act of patriotism. At a deeper level, it is possible that the PAD strove to further intensify the Thai-Cambodian conflict in order to discredit the Democrat government. For while the PAD once worked closely with the Democrat Party to unseat two Thaksin-backed regimes, the relationship between the two has turned sour. After the Democrat Party formed a  government in late 2008 with the assistance from the military, it gradually distanced itself from the PAD and the yellow shirt protesters as part of rebuilding the party’s neutral image. PAD members were infuriated and believed that they helped install the Democrat Party in power but never received the credit they deserved from the Abhisit government. The PAD thus exploited the latest row with Cambodia that it had manufactured so as to return to the political limelight and to strengthen its power base in Bangkok. It organised mass demonstrations near Government House and called for Prime Minister Abhisit to adopt a tougher position vis a vis Cambodia. The PAD cooperated with the Santi Asoke Buddhist sect to challenge the Abhisit regime, vowing to continue protests until the prime minister resigned.[57] It appeared that the PAD did not work alone. It might have had the support from army leaders who were irritated by Abhisit’s enthusiasm to call for an election in July 2011. As reported in the Thai media, PAD leader Sondhi urged the Thai military to seize Cambodian territory, including Angkor Wat, to barter for Preah Vihear Temple.[58]

The conflict was no longer confined within the Preah Vihear Temple and its surrounding disputed area. In early May 2011, two little-known temple complexes on the Thai-Cambodian border, Ta Kwai and Ta Muen Tom in Thai, or Ta Krabei and Ta Moan in Khmer, sparked the fiercest clashes between the two neighbours laying claim to the 800 years old ruins They are located 15 kilometres apart and around 150 kilometres west of the Preah Vihear Temple which has traditionally been at the centre of bilateral unrest. Undoubtedly, emotions ran deep in both countries. Particularly in Thailand, the discourse of “lost territories” revived nationalist forces: a group of Thai nationalists asked the military take back Ta Kwai/Ta Krabei. “Thailand must not allow history to repeat itself,” they said, referring to the loss of Preah Vihear to Cambodia in 1962.[59] As for Cambodia, there were incentives in combining the dispute over the two temples with the larger bilateral conflict with Thailand. Depicting Thailand as an aggressive neighbour buttressed the position of Hun Sen in his role of a strong leader who stood up to foreign aggressors. While this latest confrontation was certainly the result of domestic politics in Thailand and Cambodia, it had a negative impact on ASEAN.  As members of ASEAN, Thailand and Cambodia violated the group’s tradition of consultation and cooperation in time of bilateral crisis, and in particular, the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) in which all member states commit themselves to peaceful settlement of disputes. The aggressive behaviour also challenged the ASEAN charter, which stipulates in Article 22, “Member states shall endeavour to resolve peacefully all disputes in a timely manner through dialogue, consultation and negotiation, and ASEAN shall maintain and establish dispute settlement mechanisms in all fields of ASEAN cooperation.” Thailand has expressed its preference for dealing with the conflict strictly on a bilateral basis, whereas Cambodia frequently turned to the United Nations for help. Seemingly neither had any faith in ASEAN and its’ dispute settlement mechanisms, in spite of the efforts of Indonesia, the 2011 ASEAN chairman, to reduce tension.

But Thailand’s July 2011 election totally changed the political landscape. The new premier, the first woman in the country’s history, Yingluck Shinawatra, who is the youngest sister of Thaksin, formed a Pheu Thai-led coalition government, with 300 parliamentary seats out of 500. While the triumph of the Thaksin faction represented the reemergence of a threat to the Bangkok elite, the Yingluck premiership was immediately celebrated in Phnom Penh. Prime Minister Hun Sen sent a congratulatory note to Yingluck, vowing to work with her to alleviate tension. Hun Sen said, “I am optimistic that with a joint commitment, Your Excellency and I will obviously be able to restore our traditional friendship, good neighbours, and fruitful cooperation between our two countries’ peoples. I am ready to work closely with Your Excellency to serve the interests of our two countries and peoples, and to solve all issues peacefully in order to bring good harmonisation to our nations and to contribute to peace, stability and prosperity in the region.” Yingluck’s much-publicised visit to Phnom Penh on 15 September 2011 symbolised a thaw in the Thai-Cambodian relationship. Thaksin followed up with his own visit to Cambodia from 16-24 September 2011 which helped pave the way for a better relationship. Indeed, on the day Thaksin arrived in the Cambodian capital, a football match was organised between a red-shirt team and a Cambodian team, highlighting the fact that Cambodia had very much been playing a Thai domestic politic game. The detente between Thailand and Cambodia may, for the time being, bury the bitter memories between the two countries, but for how long?


The recent course of the Preah Vihear issue accurately reflects the vulnerability of the relationship between Thailand and Cambodia. The bitter historical background, coupled with nationalist sentiment has proved to be a serious obstruction to neighbourly relations. For nationalist bias in the history of each country has not ended and has reemerged recently.[60] The manner in which history has been recreated to be used as a political weapon, to undermine either domestic opponents or foreign enemies, has perpetuated mutual suspicion. Thailand’s domestic crisis has harmed its relations with Cambodia, while Hun Sen’s involvement in Thai politics also made relations worse rather than better. The Preah Vihear dispute makes it clear that cultural and religious similarities could not prevent conflicts in the bilateral relationship when the leaders needed to advance their own power interests, even though Thailand and Cambodia were not the only countries in the world which experienced a traumatic historical past.

 A more important message is that leaders have never ceased deriving political advantage from their controversial history. Factors behind the persistent historical embeddedness derive from both inside and outside the borders. From 2008, bilateral relations have been much dictated by the domestic situation in Thailand. Internal crises have constituted imperative conditions for hostile relationships. The anti-Thaksin forces manipulated the Preah Vihear issue to damage and overthrow Thaksin-backed regimes, while fully realising that there was a price to be paid for their provocative acts in terms of Thai-Cambodia relations with Cambodia. Similarly, when the anti-Thaksin forces were in power, Thaksin employed the same strategy of internationalising the domestic situation, by conspiring with Cambodia to destabilise the Abhisit government. After the election victory of the pro-Thaksin party, relations with Cambodia suddenly improved, thus showing that the mutual hatred displayed in relations between Thailand and Cambodia are more a product of political manipulation by recent elites than by the vestiges of their historical past.

Both Thailand and Cambodia, in identifying a virtuous “self”, stereotyped the “other” in a negative light. And the negative stereotype nurtured by the Thai state through various channels, including education and the media constitutes a ready reference point for bilateral mischief.  Cambodia is frozen in aspic as Thailand’s historical arch-enemy.


 [1] Walter F. Vella, Chaiyo! King Vajiravudh and the Development of Thai Nationalism, (Honolulu: The University Press of Hawaii, 1978), p. X.

 [2] See Eric Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism Since 1780, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990); Ernest Gellner, Nations and Nationalism, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1983); Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, (Verso: New York, 1983).

[3] Gi-Wook Shin, Ethnic Nationalism in Korea: Genealogy, Politics and Legacy, (Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2006), pp. 8-9.

[4] Chris Healy, From the Ruins of Colonialism: History as Social Memory, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), p. 73.

[5] Charnvit Kasetsiri, “Thailand-Cambodia: A Love-Hate Relationship.” Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia, Vol.3 (March 2003), p. 1 <http:> (accessed 28 January 2010).</http:>

 [6] See, Chris Baker, “Ayutthaya Rising: From Land or Sea?”, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, vol. 34 (1 February 2003), pp. 41-62.

[7] After the collapse of Angkor, a new capital was built at Phnom Penh. Phnom Penh remained the royal capital for 73 years from 1432 to 1505, when it was abandoned from 1505 to 1865 by subsequent kings due to internal fighting between royal pretenders. Later kings moved the capital several times and established their royal capitals at various locations in Tuol Basan (Srey Santhor), Pursat, Lovek, Lavear Em and Oudong.

[8] Charnvit, “Thailand-Cambodia: A Love-Hate Relationship”, p. 3.

[9] Ibid., p. 4 and 8. Charnvit referred to the work of three Thai historians, Janchai Phakatimkom, Boonteun Srivorapong and Santi Pakdeekham, who argued that King Naresuan did not kill the Cambodian ruler, and the ritual in which the blood of Phraya Lovek was used to wash Naresuan’s feet did not occur. These writers contended that Phraya Lovek fled to Laos where he lived out the rest of his days.

 [10] Thongchai Winichakul, Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-Body 0f a Nation, (Honolulu: The University of Hawaii Press, 1994), pp. 84-85. Also see, David P. Chandler, A History of Cambodia, 4th edition (Boulder: Westview, 2007), and Walter F. Vella, Siam under Rama III 1824-1851, (New York: Association for Asian Studies, 1957).

[11] Ibid., p. 166.

[12] See, Pavin Chachavalpongpun, “The Temple of Doom: Hysteria about the Preah Vihear Temple in the Thai Nationalist Discourse”, Legitimacy Crisis and Conflict in Thailand, edited by Marc Askew (Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, Spring 2010). Also see, Michael Wright, “Khao Phra Viharn: Some Historical Background”, Matichon Online, 31 July 2008. <http:> (accessed 28 March 2009) and;  Anucha Paepanawan, Exclusive: Kanmuang Ruang Khao Phra Viharn [Exclusive: The Political Case of Khao Phra Viharn] (Bangkok: Kleung Aksorn, 2008) </http:>

[13] Scot Barme, Luang Wichit Wathakan and the Creation of a Thai Identity, (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1993), p. 64.

[14] For further discussion, see, Kobkua Suwannathat-Pian, “Thai Wartime Leadership Reconsidered: Phibun , (and Pridi”, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, vol. 27, no. 1 (March 1996), pp. 166-178.

[15] In 1941, Cambodia was occupied by the Japanese. As Japan was losing the war, it decided to arrest French officials and declared Cambodia independent. But when the Japanese surrendered, the French took over again, in 1945.

[16] Quoted in Michelle Vachon, “Building History: Researchers Surprised by Battambang Finds”, The Cambodian Daily, 16 August 2003.

[17] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, Relations between Thailand and Cambodia, (Bangkok: Prachandra Press, 1959), p. 2.

[18] Ibid., p. 4. La Dépêche du Cambodge published on 19 June 1958: “Pendant sept siècles, et aujourd’hui encore, nous avons payé cher l’expérience de la déloyauté des chefs e’Etat et des Gouvernement de cette nation rapace dont le vautour remplacerait plus judicieusement le Garouda sur ses armoires.”

[19] Benchapa Krairiksh, Nao Khmer[Being in Cambodia], (Bangkok: Matichon Book, 2004), p. 94.

[20] Bunruam Tienchan, Praphat Chaleimak and Saranya Wichatham. Khrai Dai Khrai Sia Khwam Khat Yaeng Thi Ban Plai: Prasad Khao Phra Viharn [Who Won Who Lost, The Uncontrollable Conflict: Khao Phra Viharn], (Bangkok: Animate Group Co., Ltd., 2008), p. 90.

 [21] Various studies have estimated the death toll at between 740,000 and 3,000,000, most commonly between 1.4 million and 2.2 million, with perhaps half of those deaths being due to executions, and the rest from starvation and disease. For example, the US Department of State-funded Yale Cambodian Genocide Project gives estimates of the total death toll between 1.2 million and 1.7 million. Amnesty International estimates the total death toll as 1.4 million. Pol Pot gave a figure of 800,000, and his deputy,Khieu Samphan, said 1 million had been killed. See, Bruce Sharp, Counting Hell: The Death Toll of the Khmer Rouge Regime in Cambodia, 1 April 2005 <http:> (accessed 30 January 2010). </http:>

 [22] An Asia Watch Report, Khmer Rouge Abuses along the Thai-Cambodian Border, (Washington: The Asia Watch Committee, 1989), p. 6.

 [23] “Cambodia Pours Scorn on Thai Scholar’s Article”, Bangkok Post, 11 January 2010.

 [24] Quoted in Patrick Jory, Problem in Contemporary Thai Nationalist Historiography, (Kyoto: Centre of Southeast Asian Studies), no. 2 (March 2003) <http:> (accessed 30 January 2010).</http:>

 [25] Thongchai Winichakul, “Preah Vihear could be a Time Bomb”, The Nation, 30 June 2008.

 [26] Thailand claimed to have lost Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan, and Terengganu to Britain and Battambang, Sisophon and Siem Reap to France.

 [27] Thongchai Winichakul, “Prawatisat Thai Baep Rachachatniyom: Chak Yuk Ananikhonm Amphrang Su Rachachatniyom Mai Ru Latthi Sadet Phor Khorn Kradumphi Thai Nai Patchuban” [Royalist-Nationalist History: From the Era of Crypto-Colonialism to the new Royalist-Nationalism, or the Contemporary Thai Bourgeois Cult of Rama V], Silapawathanatham [Arts and Culture], vol. 23, no. 1 (November 2001), p. 50. Quoted in Jory, Problem in Contemporary Thai Nationalist Historiography.

 [28] Sarit Thanarat, Kham Prasai Khong Phanathan Chomphon Sarit Thanarat, Nayok Rattamontri kieowkap Khadi Prasat Phra Viharn Thang Wittayu Krachaiseang Lae Wittayu Toratat 4 Karakadakhom Song Pan Ha Roi Ha [Address by H.E. Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat, Prime Minister, Regarding the Phra Viharn Temple Case on the National Radio and Television Stations, 4 July 1962], 1962.

 [29] Nopporn Wong-Anan, “Temple Tantrums Stalk Thai-Cambodia Relations”, Reuters, 20 July 2008.

 [30] Chonticha Sathayawatthana, ed., Botrian Chak Hedkarn Khwamroonrang Nai Kamphucha [Lessons from Violent Incident in Cambodia], (Bangkok: Kanghan Publishing, 2003), p. 30.

 [31] Jory, Problem in Contemporary Thai Nationalist Historiography. According to Charnvit, Thais are also not particularly fond of Norodom Sihanouk. For example, a Thai riddle asks, “What colour (si) do Thai people hate?” The answer is neither red (si daeng) nor black (si dam), but “Si-hanouk.” See Charnvit, “Thailand-Cambodia: A Love-Hate Relationship.”

 [32] For further discussion, see Charnvit Kasetsiri, Latthi Chatniyom Thai/Siam Nai Kampucha: Lae Koranee Suksa Khao Prah Viharn [Siamese/Thai Nationalism and Cambodia: A Case Study of the Preah Vihear Temple], (Bangkok: Toyota Thailand Foundation, the Foundation for the Promotion of Social Science and Humanities, 2009).

 [33] Jory, Problem in Contemporary Thai Nationalist Historiography.

 [34] Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand <http:> (accessed 13 February 2010).</http:>

[35] “Noppadon Nahcha Thookdah Khaichat Tornahthood Acharn Thammasat Kadkant Amnard Tadsinkhadi Khong San Pokklong” [Noppadon was Criticised for Selling the Country in front of Foreign Diplomats, Thammasat University’s Professors Object the Role of the Administrative Court], S!News, 30 June 2008 <http:> (accessed 13 February 2010).</http:>

 [36] In, “Preah Vihear for Koh Kong and Natural Oil/Gas”> (accessed 29 March 2009).

 [37] Wassana Nanuam, “Thaksin Set to Invest Big Time in Cambodia”, Bangkok Post, 19 June 2008.

 [38] Neth Pheaktra, “Koh Kong to Become Second Hong Kong.” The Mekong Times, 26 May 2008.

 [39] Wassana, “Thaksin Set to Invest Big Time in Cambodia”.

 [40] Yossawadee Hongthong, “Abhisit Calls on Thai MPs to Vote against PM.” The Nation, 23 June 2008.

 [41] Noppadon Pattama, Phom Mai Dai Khai Chart [I Did Not Sell My Country], (Bangkok: Kledthai, 2008), p. 61.

 [42] On July 28, 2008, Sondhi Limthongkul, leader of the PAD, took to the stage at about 9 pm to address the crowd rallying near Government House in Bangkok, and proposed this way-out of the crisis <http:> (accessed 13 February 2010).</http:>

 [43] You Ay, “Editorial Coverage of Hun Sen is not Fair”, The Nation, 3 November 2009.

 [44] Shawn W. Crispin, “Plots seen in Thaksin’s Cambodia gambit”, Asia Times, 12 November 2009 <http:> (accessed 13 February 2010).</http:>

 [45] “Thaksin Obtains Cambodian Citizenship in March 2009” <http:> (accessed 9 January 2010)</http:>

 [46] Veera Prateepchaikul, “Does Hun Sen Want to Play in our Political Sandbox?,” Bangkok Post, 26 October 2009.

 [47] “Govt to Consider Revoking MoU with Cambodia”, Bangkok Post, 6 November 2009.

 [48] Marwaan Macan-Markar, “Thai-Cambodia Tension Gives Rise to Schools with Bunkers”, IPS, 24 November 2009 <http:> (accessed 13 February 2010).</http:>

 [49]. The poll was conducted between October 25 and November 5, 2009, and involved 3,709 people, aged 18 and up, in 21 provinces. By region, support for the Abhisit government was 88.2 per cent in the South, 68.9 per cent in the Central, 68.8 per cent in Bangkok, 64.6 per cent in the North, and 53.1 per cent in the Northeast. See, “Souring Public Support for the Government”, Bangkok Post, 6 November 2009.

 [50] “Yet Another unprovoked Outburst from Hun Sen”, Bangkok Post, 1 December 2010.

 [51] Veera Prateepchaikul, “Hun Sen’s Latest Antic Unbecoming of a Premier,” Bangkok Post, 9 February 2010.

 [52] “Cambodia Lambast Google Earth for locating Temple in Thai Soil”, The Nation, 10 February 2010.

 [53] Rumtum is the pseudonym of this Cambodian writer <http:> (accessed 30 January 2010).</http:>

 [54] Supalak Ganjanakhundee, “Hun Sen Settling Scores but is it Worth it?”, The Nation, 7 November 2009.

 [55] “Sampas Charnvit Kasetsiri: Tonnee Pen Khon Thai Ki Fai Thi Torsukan Kanathi Kamphucha Luayou Faidiew” [Interview Charnvit Kasetsiri: How Many Factions are now in Thailand Fighting among Themselves? While Cambodia has only one Faction.], Prachathai, 8 November 2009 <http:> (accessed 9 January 2010).</http:>

 [56] See,

 [57] Pavin Chachavalpongpun, “Thailand’s Rising Nationalism”, Wall Street Journal, 9 February 2011.

 [58] “Sondhi urges Thai military to seize Angkor Wat in exchange for Preah Vihear”, Prachathai, 13 February 2011 <http:> (accessed 29 May 2011).</http:>

 [59] Pavin Chachavalpongpun, “Domestic Politics Driving Border Row”, South China Morning Post, 6 May 2011.

 [60] Paul Busbarat, “Thai-Cambodian Dispute over the Preah Vihear Temple Revisited”, Policy Net, 30 August 2008 <http:> (accessed 13 February 2010).</http:>

*Pavin Chachavalpongpun is a Fellow at the  Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) in Singapore. A former Thai diplomat, he has written extensively on Thai foreign policy. He published Reinventing Thailand: Thaksin and his Foreign Policy (ISEAS Publishing) in 2010.