Editorial | Articles about Cambodia | Khmer

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Preah Vihear: A Khmer Heritage

July 25, 2005 (Kenneth So)
http://www.cambodia.org/Preah_Vihear/?history=A+Khmer+Heritage

PREAH VIHEAR: A KHMER HERITAGE
By Kenneth T. So

THE KHMER EMPIRE

The Khmer Empire was at its apogee during the reign of Jayavarman VII (1181-1215 A.D.). Its territory covered the current Cambodia, all of southern Vietnam, all of the current Laos, all of the current Thailand, and part of the current Malaysia. Unlike the Khmers, Thais, known then as Siameses, were not natives of the region. The kingdom of Thailand, known then as Siam, did not appear in Southeast Asia until the mid- 14th century.

A well-known Thai historian, Sulak Sivarak, who was a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and the winner of the Right Livelihood Award said of the Khmer Empire: "It included everything right up to Lopburi and all of what is now Bangkok". Again, describing the Khmer Empire, Peter Janssan of the Hindustan Times quoted Sulak Sivaraka in his article on 18 June 2008: "Thai invasions of Cambodia, then in its decline, led to the adoption of many Khmer cultural traditions by the Thais, including the Hindu concept of god-kings and court rituals, and an ongoing fondness for Brahman-inspired black magic, especially among Thai politicians". Peter Janssan went on to describe that there are many more Khmer temples located in Thailand, especially along the northeast Thailand- Cambodian border like Buriram, Surin, and Sisaket. The map depicting the Khmer Empire at its height is shown in Figure 1.

Khmer Empire during the Height of its Civilization, Before the Appearance of Siam (From Jayavarman II to Jayavarman VII)
Figure 1. Khmer Empire during the Height of its Civilization, Before the Appearance of Siam (From Jayavarman II to Jayavarman VII)

THE FRENCH PROTECTORATE

Cambodia was a vassal state under Siam during the reign of King Ang Duong. Cambodia had lost Battambang, Sisophon, and Siem Reap to Siam. Siam had placed spies everywhere at the court of Oudong. To get out of the Siam’s manacles, King Norodom who succeeded his father, King Ang Duong, sought out help from France. On 23 March 1907, under the reign of King Sisowath who succeeded his brother, King Norodom, France (as the protectorate of Cambodia) and Siam signed a border treaty that completed the 1904 treaty. In the 1904 treaty Siam ceded Tonlé Repou, Mlou Prey, Koh Kong, and Stung Trèng to Cambodia. The 1907 treaty subsequently produced the French- Siamese Commission 1907 Frontier Line (Figure 2), placing Preah Vihear under the control of Cambodia. The French-Siamese 1907 treaty had Siam ceded almost all Cambodia ancient territory of the 16th century back to Cambodia. The territory included Battambang, Sisophon, Siem Reap, Mongkol Borei, and Tnot (Figures 3 and 4).

Extract from the International Court of Justice Report 1962 – The French-Siamese Commission 1907 (Scale 1:200,000) (Courtesy Bora Touch. Note in blue added by Bora Touch for clarity)
Figure 2. Extract from the International Court of Justice Report 1962 – The French-Siamese Commission 1907 (Scale 1:200,000) (Courtesy Bora Touch. Note in blue added by Bora Touch for clarity)

Map of Cambodia Showing the Te rritory That Siam Ceded To France in 1907
Figure 3. Map of Cambodia Showing the Te rritory That Siam Ceded To France in 1907

Map of Present Day Cambodia Courtesy: Official Map by the Royal Government of Cambodia Submitted to UNESCO for Preah VihearWorld Heritage List
Figure 4. Map of Present Day Cambodia Courtesy: Official Map by the Royal Government of Cambodia Submitted to UNESCO for Preah VihearWorld Heritage List

In spite of this agreement, Thailand contested in 1934 that the Temple of Preah Vihear belonged to her and their surveyors redrew the frontier to locate Preah Vihear in Thailand’s territory. In 1954 Thailand occupied Preah Vihear. On 6 October 1959, Cambodia, under the leadership of Prince Norodom Sihanouk, petitioned the International Court of Justice (ICJ) of the Hague, Netherlands, to rule on the dispute. By the end of the year, Thailand retaliated with a claim listing Preah Vihear as a national archeological site. On June 15, 1962, the ICJ made a judgment recognizing that the Temple of Preah Vihear belonged to Cambodia using the French-Siamese Commission 1907 Frontier Line as one of the supporting arguments (Figure 5). A satellite photo showing Preah Vihear and its surrounding region with demarcations of the frontier established by the French-Siamese Commission 1907 is presented in Figure 6. Figure 7 shows another satellite photo of Preah Vihear and the Dangrek mountain range. Thailand never protested against the verdict. However, over the years Thailand has unilaterally redrawn the map that contradicts the ICJ judgment (Figures 8- 10).

Area of the Temple of Preah Vihear in the Dangrek Range of Mountains (Extrapolation from the map recognized by the International Court of Justice, 15 June 1962) Courtesy: Official Map by the Royal Government of Cambodia submitted to UNESCO for Preah VihearWorld Heritage List
Figure 5. Area of the Temple of Preah Vihear in the Dangrek Range of Mountains (Extrapolation from the map recognized by the International Court of Justice, 15 June 1962) Courtesy: Official Map by the Royal Government of Cambodia submitted to UNESCO for Preah VihearWorld Heritage List

Satellite Photo of Preah Vihear and its Surrounding Region (Courtesy: Bora Touch)
Figure 6. Satellite Photo of Preah Vihear and its Surrounding Region (Courtesy: Bora Touch)

Satellite Photo of Preah Vihear and its Surrounding Region (Courtesy: Bora Touch)
Figure 7. Satellite Photo of Preah Vihear and its Surrounding Region (Courtesy: Bora Touch)

Thai Internal Working Document – The Official Thai Map (Scale 1:10,000) Courtesy Bora Touch. Notes in blue and green Colors added by Bora Touch for clarity
Figure 8. Thai Internal Working Document – The Official Thai Map (Scale 1:10,000) Courtesy Bora Touch. Notes in blue and green Colors added by Bora Touch for clarity

Thai Internal Working Document – The French-Siamese Commission Map Made in 1907 (Scale: 1:200,000) (Courtesy Bora Touch. Notes in blue by Bora Touch for clarity)
Figure 9. Thai Internal Working Document – The French-Siamese Commission Map Made in 1907 (Scale: 1:200,000) (Courtesy Bora Touch. Notes in blue by Bora Touch for clarity)

Extract from the Aide Memoire of Cambodia Royal Government 1962 (Scale: 1:6,000) (Courtesy Bora Touch. Note in blue by Bora Touch for Clarity)
Figure 10. Extract from the Aide Memoire of Cambodia Royal Government 1962 (Scale: 1:6,000) (Courtesy Bora Touch. Note in blue by Bora Touch for Clarity)

The temple of Preah Vihear was originally built under Yasovarman I, a Khmer king who reigned from 889 to 910 A.D. The building started in light material, but its completion in stone was carried on later by his successors. The temple was dedicated to Shiva (God of destroyer).

The setting of Preah Vihear was ideal for a Khmer monarch who dedicated the temple for Shiva because of its spectacular location sitting atop of a high cliff over 500 meters above the lower ground. Aerial views of the Preah Vihear temples are shown in Figures 11 and 12.

Aerial View of Preah Vihear Hanging Over a Cliff On Cambodia Territory (Courtesy: Official Photo by the Royal Government of Cambodia Submitted to UNESCO for Preah VihearWorld Heritage List)
Figure 11. Aerial View of Preah Vihear Hanging Over a Cliff On Cambodia Territory (Courtesy: Official Photo by the Royal Government of Cambodia Submitted to UNESCO for Preah VihearWorld Heritage List)

Aerial View of Preah Vihear
Figure 12. Aerial View of Preah Vihear

THE THAI TWISTED THESIS OF THEIR ORIGIN

There are some Thais in the academic, the press, and the media who fantasize in their justification of Preah Vihear belonging to Thailand by advancing a twisted thesis claiming that Khmer is not the same as Khorm (note: the Thai used to call Khmer as either Khamin or Khorm). They say that Khmer is Khamin, which is different from Khorm. Furthermore, they say that Khorms are the real inhabitants of what is now Thailand and they were the builders of Preah Vihear, Angkor, and all the ancient temples found in Cambodia and Thailand. They are saying that Khmers are not the descendents of the Angkor builders. Therefore, they try to justify by implication that Thai people are the true descendents of the Khorms, the original inhabitants of Thailand and builders of Preah Vihear and Angkor. The Thai people have such a twisted mind. Believing in this twisted thesis is like believing that a bullet firing from a gun can be curved around a corner. The Thais are not only satisfied to steal everything that are precious to Khmers and then claimed them to be their own, such as Preah Ko Preah Keo, Preah Khan Reach, Khmer classical dance and music, Khmer style boxing, and Khmer scripts “Aksor Moul” (the Thai called it sacred scripts instead of Khmer scripts), but now they try to even steal Khmer identity. They want to strip Khmer people bare of any ancestry.

OBSERVATIONS

A few important observations to the central issue of the Preah Vihear temple must be brought up to the attention of the world. The following are two immediate points of interest concerning the affair of the Preah Vihear temples:

  1. The press keeps mentioning that Preah Vihear was an ancient Hindu temple instead of a Khmer temple. Preah Vihear is not a Hindu temple but a Khmer temple built under the reign of Yasovarman I, a Khmer king in the 9th century, dedicated to Shiva, one of the Hindu gods. When the press says that Preah Vihear is a Hindu temple, it deemphasizes Khmer ownership and legitimacy to the temple. In modern time, the war of words is very important. This clarification is very important and it must be emphasized at all time.
  2. Thailand kept insisting on using her own map to claim the disputed area around Preah Vihear instead of the French-Siamese Commissioned Map of 1907, where the International Court of Justice (ICJ) based its judgment on to award Preah Vihear to Cambodia. The map was the product of the treaty signed by Thailand and French (Cambodia was under the French protectorate) in 1907. It is legal and binding. Thailand wants to use its own map that is not binding and not recognized by the International Court of Justice. Cambodia must not give in to the Thai insistence of using her own map to settle the dispute of Preah Vihear and its surrounding area.

CONCLUSION

Cambodia is doing the right thing to seek help from the United Nations (UN). It is not in the interest of Thailand to have the UN intervene in the affair of Preah Vihear, because she knows that Cambodia has more legitimacy and historical claim of Preah Vihear and its surrounding area than Thailand does. The UN will have to consider and abide by the 1962 judgment made by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the recent recognition by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that included Preah Vihear in the World Heritage List. If the UN were to side with Cambodia, then they would probably ask Thailand to withdraw from the disputed area.

Thailand is playing hardball because she knows Cambodia is no match with her militarily. Cambodia has no choice but to ask the UN for help. With the UN help Thailand will not dare to encroach further into Cambodia territory. If war were to erupt, Thailand would be condemned by the world and she will lose face. Additionally, the Muslims are now waiting for the right opportunity to stir troubles again in the southern region of Thailand if this latter decides to go to war with Cambodia. Thailand cannot afford to have war with Cambodia. Thailand may win in the short term but she will lose in the long run. Thailand fears the UN because among the five permanent members, Cambodia can count on France, China, and Russia to side with her. As to the US and the UK positions, nothing can be certain but if these two countries interpret the laws and historical facts properly, they should come to the conclusion that Thailand has no claim and basis over Preah Vihear and its surrounding area that she had ceded to Cambodia during the French-Siamese 1907 treaty.

The UN cannot ignore the ICJ judgment that recognized Preah Vihear belonging to Cambodia, because to do otherwise would bring chaos to the international rule of laws. There is no doubt, both based on the court of laws and historical facts, that the Temple of Preah Vihear is a Khmer heritage and belonging to Cambodia.

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8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i believe so Khmer heritage belong to the Cambodian people

5:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No "Overlapping" or "Disputed" 4.6 km2 Area...It's all within Cambodia!
ไม่มีพื้นที่ 'ทับซ้อน' หรือ 'โต้แย้ง' ๔.๖ ก.ม.๒...เป็นดินแดนในกัมพูชาตลอดมา!

The delineation of boundary between Cambodia and Thailand by the mixed French-Siamese commission was not a mere coincidence. It was done on the agreement that the French position in Indochina gave up Chanthaburi and Trat provinces; and Siam returned Siem Reap, Kampong Thom, and Battambang provinces, which it had conquered and occupied for over two centuries back to Cambodia. It's a misconception for Thais to think that the Franco-Siamese treaty of 1904-07 was an unfair treaty while France was a super power at the time. King Sisowath considered the treaty a major accomplishment during his reign by regaining Cambodia's most important historial land back. On the other hand, King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) of Siam believed it was to the best interests of Siam for gaining Chanthaburi and Trat provinces from the French possession and safeguarding their major core country from being a colony of the west. Chanthaburi and Trat provinces proved to be a great bargain for Thailand today with a vast area of the Gulf of Thailand, islands, and large oil and gas deposits beneath the sea floor. This land trade off also gave Bangkok a more proportional distance away from Cambodia, roughly 120 miles from the border. The Franco-Siamese treaty of 1904-07 showed Annex I map with a clear and finite boundary line between Thailand and Cambodia. There were no so-called "overlapping" or "disputed" 4.6 km2 between the two kingdoms. The Annex I map was subsequently being used by the Royal Government of Cambodia under the leadership of then King-Father Norodom Sihanouk in the World Court case regarding Preah Vihear in 1962, in which the court ruled by a vote of 9 to 3 that Preah Vihear Temple and the adjacent areas were in the territory of Cambodia.

---Khmer Surin
---ชาวแขมร์จังหวัดสุรินทร์

4:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is so strange though that looking at the topographic map, it is so logical that whatever is on the hill side should belong to the country that owns the hill.

It is ridiculous that all the hill belongs to one country and the tip and only that tip that is almost inaccessible from the other side belongs to the other country.

And to get to this tip you would have to go to the other country to have access.

It is like living in a house but the attic belongs to your neighbor. Laughable.

Just a thought.

6:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Generally, small/weak/poor country never violate big/strong/rich country. The question is Cambodia can violate Thailand??? what are thai's evidences??, Cambodia relied on the sentence of The Hague, Netherlands and ready to solve the problem among the international community, but thai reject!!!!???.

May be all international communities/UN are blinded now. Base on Justice and injustice ground in the human community, I wish the world will be destroyed by human in soonest time.

Strong/rich/big countries alway win small/weak/poor countries. Why the world not to find the better way??????

6:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Today you look better than me because of u violated me. But soonest future u and me is the ghost even you father, your mother and all human will be killed by the true world.

let see, what did u don when u go to toilet?? same as every body even u are strong/rich/big

6:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The case of Preah Vihear ruled by the Hague make me think of the case in the "The Merchant of Venice" written by Shakespeare. If Cambodia wants to claim her ownership of the Preah Vihear,she probably has to remove it from Thailand's soil. Is it possible to do that? Siam unavoidably signed an agreement with France and France took as much as she could. She could not refuse the existance of the watershade though.Watershades are used as border marks between countries. This is an international principle. There is no point to refer to the ancient Khmer's influence over this region. Thailand never refuse the influence. In fact, Khmer culture is a part of Thai culture. Khmer temples(in Thailand)are our heritage that all Thai people have to preserve. Thailand and Cambodia have many things in common, and having Khmer temples in possession is one of them. Thailand and Cambodia shold underatand each other better. We are friends,not enemies.

12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not only did Thailand reject to solve the problem, but so did corrupted Prime Minister Hun Sen. If you clearly follow the borders of Cambodia today and compare them to any of the maps from 1907 or 1962, they do not match. Thailand refuses to bring it up internationally for they know these maps are proof of agreements made internationally in 1962. Hun Sen refuses because if this map is brought under revision by international eyes, it will show encroachment of Vietnam over Cambodian land in the eastern borders. And if this is discovered, the corrupted Hun Sen will lose power and money, which he will kill his own people for. Sam Rainsey has brought up this issue before but was exiled out of the country. This Preah Vihear issue is just a diversion from the real issue at hand. Visit any Cambodian along the borders and if they're not afraid, they'll tell you. Many Cambodians have been jailed/ killed/ or vanished from trying to expose the truth. Ho Chi Minh's mission of invading Laos and Cambodia to be Indochina/Vietnam was never terminated. His mission is successful with Laos almost completely gone and Cambodia too 95% belonging to Vietnam. The 5% left are just the Cambodian people who are dying one by one. The people of Khmer Krom has tried to unite with her mother country Cambodia, but Hun Sen declines any aid or association with them for Vietnam instructs him to lay off. Cambodia today has the strength of Khmer people but the Head of a Vietnamese, forever they will be strong but work for the Vietnamese. Until the puppet Government Hun Sen is removed, Cambodia is doomed.

To the Thai people, Cambodian people wish no hurt towards you, you are our sister country, we share so much in common whether you present our culture or we present yours, we have no hate or anger towards you. The Khmer people have gone through war after war and poverty after poverty, we seek no more pain, we only desire to live the only one life we have. This is all a political game between Hun Sen and his Vietnamese brothers. Also For Laos if Cambodia ever makes it out alive we hope to help build you up into a strong sister nation as well. The true south east asians must do their best to stick together. Just remember hundereds of Years ago, the Khmer Empire was great and can bring great wonders. So i promise you this, if you give the Khmer People a chance to live in peace, they will bring Sovanna Phoum for all of us!

6:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

let have a war and the UN will step in to see the ashes as a result of human conflict reaction. There will be most dead of Siameses than Khmer in the regions for sure. There will be peace after war.Bring it it on1

7:19 AM  

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