Everyone is wondering, however, why Cambodia's prime minister began beating the war drums in the first place, making noises about going to war with Thailand. Why now?
First, it needs to be said that a number of Thais -- in particular, some of those Thais most vehemently opposed to their government -- subscribe to certain "conspiracy theories." A leader of the anti-government PAD group is saying that former Thai PM Thaksin wanted Hun Sen to attack Thailand. The theory goes something like this:
Some analysts read too much into it . . . The machiavellian scenario they suggested was that the Cambodian strongman wanted to help his associate Thaksin - and Thaksin's brother-in-law, Somchai Wongsawat, the present Thai prime minister - to overcome Thailand's domestic political difficulties.Other versions of the "Thaksin-Cambodian"conspiracy theory claim the former PM wants to further his business interests in Cambodia, and somehow the conflict furthers these interests.
So what are the facts? Bangkok Pundit, as usual, has done a great job of parsing these out. Drawing partly on BP's most recent post, here are some of the main facts and issues:
- Thailand's government is weak, many Thais believe a military coup could easily happen.
- Hun Sen cannot wait that long, because his government is required to submit an administrative plan for Preah Vihear temple to the World Heritage Committee by next February.
- Access to the disputed temple seems to require a road through territory claimed by Thailand.
- Now that Hun Sen has won an election, he must govern. He may feel it expedient to stir up opposition within Cambodia to an "enemy" state in order to unite the nation behind him.
Map from Prachatai shows location of Preah Vihear temple in relation to Khmer Empire -- around eight hundred years ago. As you can see, the Khmer Empire stretches to the Pagan Empire of Burma. At that time, the Thai lived under the rule of the Khmers. The Prachatai article discusses the history of the conflict.