Monday, November 23, 2009

Patriot games 'are damaging'

Bangkok Post

The government's move to revoke memorandums of understanding with Cambodia could put Thailand at a disadvantage, leading academics say.

The government should not let a mounting sense of patriotism influence its decision to nullify any MoU with Cambodia, said Puangthong Pawakapan, an international relations lecturer at Chulalongkorn University. She said taking such action could do more harm than good to the nation.

Two agreements have been much discussed, she said, adding one was signed during the Chuan Leekpai administration and the other during the Thaksin Shinawatra government.

The first MoU deals with survey and demarcation of land boundaries, and the second with the overlapping continental shelf area. If the first MoU is torn up, Mrs Puangthong said, any agreement on the survey and demarcation of land boundaries - which both sides have tried to negotiate for many years - would be scrapped.

The revocation of this MoU would inevitably result in a domino effect on another MoU Thailand has reached with Laos, she said. And if the second MoU is also revoked, Thailand could lose current territorial rights over Koh Kut island because Cambodia's acknowledgement of the Thai rights is part of this MoU, she said.

The termination of the MoU on the overlapping maritime boundary is awaiting parliamentary approval after the cabinet resolved on Nov 10 to have it revoked.

"We should not be tempted to resolve Thai-Cambodian conflicts by means of politics ... and we should get rid of the old attitude that Thailand is superior to Cambodia," she said.

Charnwit Kasetsiri, a former Thammasat University rector, said he hoped Thais who still believed Cambodia relied heavily on Thailand as it had in the past would change their attitudes.

Cambodia has now formed cooperation with many other countries since the day the Thai-Cambodian border dispute erupted, Mr Charnwit said.

Cambodia has developed cooperation with the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) about having the Preah Vihear temple listed as a World Heritage site and sought economic cooperation with China, Japan and Korea, he said.

Mr Charnwit said if the rift between Thailand and Cambodia drags on, the former could lose hundreds of millions of baht in investment opportunities.

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