With reference to the April 27 editorial, “A temple tests ASEAN”: I wish to provide Japan Times’ readers with facts about the recent situation at the Thai-Cambodian border, which was started by unprovoked armed attacks on April 22 by Cambodian troops on Thai soldiers and civilians.
On April 21 a Thai military patrol unit encountered armed Cambodian soldiers constructing bunkers in the area of Ta Kwai Temple, in Thai territory, and informed the Cambodian side that such acts clearly violate Thailand’s sovereignty.
On April 22, Cambodian troops opened fire and launched heavy weapons, including mortars and field artillery shells, without any provocation, into the areas of Ta Kwai Temple and Ta Muen Temple, situated in Surin Province, Thailand.
The unprovoked armed attacks by the Cambodian troops on Thai soldiers and civilians occurred repeatedly, resulting in the killing of seven Thai soldiers and one Thai civilian, the wounding of 103 soldiers and four civilians, and the evacuation of more than 30,000 Thai villagers.
The Thai side never initiated the fighting and has always exercised maximum restraint in response. In light of Cambodia’s repeated acts of aggression, Thailand was left with no choice but to defend her sovereignty and territorial integrity by using proportionate means with necessity under international laws, and strictly responding at only military targets.
The allegation in the editorial on the Thai use of cluster munitions is erroneous.
The fact is that Thailand’s use of Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions, which have not been classified as cluster munitions by many countries and international military sources, was in response to Cambodia’s attacks against Thailand in February with BM-21 multiple-rocket launcher systems, which struck at targets indiscriminately.
At a press conference April 23, H.E. Kasit Piromya, minister of foreign affairs of Thailand, unequivocally rejected the allegations made by Cambodia that Thailand had deployed aircraft or used poison gas against Cambodia.
At the same press conference, the foreign minister also underscored the good will of the Thai people toward the Cambodian people, stressing further that Thailand’s policy toward Cambodia is based on mutual prosperity.
Over the years, Thailand has rendered support to Cambodia in many respects, including concessional loans, development of transportation networks and tourism.
During the Cambodian Holocaust, when approximately 2 million Cambodians were killed by the Khmer Rouge, Thailand provided sanctuary for several hundred thousand Cambodian refugees in Thailand.
Even now, Thai hospitals provide free medical care to Cambodians living along the border. Thailand’s records of generosity and compassion speak for itself.
On the dispatch of Indonesian observers to the Thai side of the border, the foreign minister pointed out that as a democracy with multiparty parliamentary system, Thailand has to follow its constitutional rules and processes in which consultations must be held with relevant agencies, and views from various sectors of society heard, before a formal reply can be made.
Last, I wish to take issue with the editorial’s phrase “Thailand’s readiness to usurp a part of Khmer patrimony.” This is not an objective comment but rather a grave and baseless accusation. Although Thailand has reservations about the 1962 International Court of Justice’s decision on the Phra Viharn Temple, Thailand has always respected it.
The crux of the present conflict is due to the Cambodian side’s attempts to take by force the border areas which are still in the process of demarcation under the 2000 memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the two countries. The Kingdom of Thailand has always been a country of laws from her foundation nearly a millennium ago.
This respect for laws is evident in Thailand’s strict adherence to the sacred principle of pacta sunt servanda, or respect for treaties or international agreements such as the aforementioned 2000 MOU, which provides the framework for the demarcation of the entire border between Thailand and Cambodia.
Thailand’s present exercise of the right of self-defense under the United Nations Charter is to prevent Cambodia’s use of brute force to dictate the boundary between our two countries, which Thailand has always insisted must be defined through a peaceful process in accordance with the above-mentioned 2000 MOU and under international law.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.
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