If you take a look at the assorted border conflicts between Cambodia and Thailand over the past few years, you will start to notice a pattern emerging. Thailand desperately wants to keep others out of the process of finding and answer, and Cambodia has made several attempts to get third parties involved. When you stop and think about that alone, it most certainly seems Cambodia feels they are right, and at the same time it seems Thailand feels that they are wrong.
When you sit back and look at human nature, people that have a confident feeling they are right are more than willing to get a third persons opinion, knowing and feeling in their gut that the response will be supportive of their position. For people who feel that they are on questionable grounds and are basing their position as viewed in a fun house mirror, there is significant insecurity in asking a third party because of the gut feeling they will find disagreement.
Without even knowing all the nitty gritty details of the border conflicts between Cambodia and Thailand, viewing Thailand’s behavior as a whole seems somewhat childish as it seems they put significantly more effort into keeping it a 2 man show and rejecting and even refusing to have observers in the talks meant to resolve the issues. This can only be read as insecurity in Thailand’s part.
When you look at the recent cross border military clashes and the ‘I said He said’ argument of who fired the first shot be it Thailand or Cambodia, fuzzy logic says Cambodia fired first simply as a tool to get that third party involved. Even comments from Thailand’s government that say ‘We will not fall into their trap’ suggest both the fear of the third party and that Cambodia did indeed fire first. If Thailand fired first that would simply invite that third party that they so desperately want to avoid.
Looking at it from a slightly different viewpoint, the last time a third party got involved, Thailand ended up with the short end of the stick, and the sting from that is still being felt. That issue had to do with the ownership of the Preah Vihear Temple that was judged to be in Cambodia. Thailand’s response was a cookie cutter border that is just a few meters from the structure. It is that cookie cutter border that is the center of this dispute.
Even here at Connecting the Dots we suggested that the area between Thailand’s proposed border and Cambodia’s proposed border be a shared area like a no mans land that is found between immigration checkpoints. But based on the behaviors of both countries since that suggestion, it is easier to accept Cambodia’s viewpoint of where the border is.
It is clear to understand Thailand does not want to lose pride, face and most of all real estate, but it is increasingly difficult to accept their position as their behavior appears to be much closer to being childish when compared to Cambodia. Because of that it seems the only end to this is the involvement of a third party who’s decision will be binding. Then both sides can go and lick their wounds and work at becoming good neighbors again.