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Thailand has no one to blame but itself

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Puangthong: We ‘should have known’
Chulalongkorn University political scientist Puangthong Pawakapan believes the decision to withdraw Thailand from the World Heritage Convention will cast a negative light on the country's image. The academic shares her opinions with AMORNRAT MAHITTHIROOK on the issue. 

What's wrong with Thailand's foreign policy on the world stage?
We have to look at the overall problem. Thai and Cambodia have been at loggerheads over Preah Vihear since Cambodia managed to get the ancient temple listed as a World Heritage Site in 2008. Thailand's opposition has hurt its image. The country is viewed as losing a boxing match, but it and its fans refuse to accept the defeat.

Does a conflict over the 4.6-sq km disputed area (near Preah Vihear temple) not carry enough weight for the WHC to listen to Thailand?

The Abhisit government explained that the listing of the temple and its management plan has allegedly encroached on Thai soil. But the government failed to produce clear evidence showing the alleged encroachment.

If we look at a map submitted by Cambodia for the listing of the temple, the listing has not included the 4.6-sq km disputed area. This area had been removed from Cambodia's application since the Samak Sundaravej government was in office.

Only the temple and areas on the eastern and western sides of it were listed as a World Heritage site. Evidence about the alleged encroachment must be produced when Mr Suwit opposed the listing before the WHC. But I think we have no evidence, only words.

Why did Thailand fail to lobby other membership countries to back its stance?

It's hard to lobby them as we have to produce clear evidence about alleged encroachment. The kingdom should have opposed the management plan before the WHC held a meeting.

The WHC had invited Thailand to participate in a panel to consider Cambodia's management plan but we refused so we had no opportunity to oppose the plan at that time. It's too late to cast an opposition when the WHC meeting [had been] called.

Wasn't the government aware of such procedures?

I think the government was fully aware, but opted not to tell the public. I don't know why it had to make public its opposition to Cambodia's management plan during the WHC meeting.

Cambodia had submitted the plan in February last year.

Thailand also has its representative on the WHC and should have know what was going on.

The management plan is not confidential as its details are displayed on several websites.

Which country has [gained] an advantage and which one stands to lose over Thailand's withdrawal from the WHC?

Most of members of the WHC show an inclination to support Cambodia. Thailand's image over the issue has been badly affected.

This prompts other countries to back Cambodia despite the fact that they don't like Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen for being an authoritarian. Even foreign media based in Cambodia also dislike Hun Sen, but they support Cambodia over the issue.



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