Nationalism is obstructing attempts by Southeast Asian countries to turn the region into one community, experts say
Surachart Bamrungsuk, of Chulalongkorn University's faculty of political science, said yesterday that the ongoing dispute between Thailand and Cambodia over the Preah Vihear temple was due to Thailand's bias and ignorance of regional history.
"The Hague verdict is crystal clear that the temple belongs to Cambodia. And there should be no point trying to digress that the land underneath belongs to Thailand. The case is closed in court but it's still hanging and haunting our minds," said Mr Surachart.
He was speaking at a seminar on "Nation States and their Borders: Conflicts and Resolutions," jointly organised by the Foundation for the Promotion of Social Science and Humanities Textbooks Project, Toyota Motor (Thailand) and the Toyota Foundation.
The World Court ruled in 1962 that Preah Vihear belonged to Cambodia.
Ties between Thailand and Cambodia became strained last year after Bangkok withdrew its support for Cambodia to unilaterally list the temple as a World Heritage site.
The conflict has stirred up nationalism among many Thais who believed the court verdict could be appealed.
A new spat between the two countries broke out after former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was appointed as an economic adviser to Phnom Penh by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. The Cambodian leader also criticised the Thai judicial process against Thaksin.
Sittha Lertphaiboonsiri, Thammasat University's special lecturer on Southeast Asian studies, cited the conflict between Indonesia and Malaysia as an example of attempts to solve bilateral problems.
The two countries ended their dispute over Sipadan and Ligitan islands in 2002 by accepting the verdict of the International Court of Justice in the Hague. The court ruled that the two islands belonged to Malaysia.
Asean secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan admitted problems between Thailand and its neighbours were inherited from a legacy of colonial disputes over boundaries.
He said Asean also needed to end the divisions among its 10 members to become one community by 2015.
"We need to move to that level so the Asean community can be based on the three pillars of politics and security, economic and socio-cultural bases," he said.