Lessons from Preah Vihear: Thailand, Cambodia, and the Nature of Low-Intensity Border Conflicts
In 1962, the International Court of Justice ruled that the Preah Vihear temple lies within Cambodian territory. The status of the 4.6 kmÂ² of land surrounding the temple, however, remained unclear. When UNESCO declared the Preah Vihear temple a Cambodian World Heritage Site in July 2008, the situation was exacerbated. Several firefights between October 2008 and April/May 2011 claimed at least 34 lives. The border dispute became a rollercoaster ride along the way: Talks between Thailand and Cambodia were regularly interrupted by exchanges of fire, only to be resumed a little later. This prevented a resolution of the conflict. The essay explores how Thailandâ€™s and Cambodiaâ€™s conflict behaviour can be explained from a first-image perspective. In doing so, uncovering the motives of both countriesâ€™ prime ministers is crucial to understanding Bangkokâ€™s and Phnom Penhâ€™s actions in the border area. The paper argues that in low-intensity border conflicts, motivations are different from those underlying heads of governmentâ€™s behaviour in high-intensity border conflicts. While this complicates an agreement on the Preah Vihear question, it also means that escalation to a manifest border war is very unlikely.
Volume (Year): 30 (2011)
Issue (Month): 3 ()
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