Preah Vihear Reloaded – The Thai-Cambodian Border Dispute

Sonja Meyer


This article investigates the recent Thai-Cambodian border clash over the Preah Vihear temple. The temple was registered as a World Heritage Site in July 2008. Cambodia made its application in 2007, causing nationalist resentments in Thailand. The paper highlights underlying and proximate causes of the military escalation in October 2008 and argues that both sides are likely to dig in their heels as the temple is an important symbol of national identity, territorial integrity, and sovereignty. As such, any concession would involve high political costs that neither side can afford given their current domestic political situation, especially Thailand. Further, both sides are using the conflict for their own benefit in that it creates social cohesion, strengthens national identity, and generates a sense of community. After decades of civil war, this is particularly important in Cambodia.

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