The violent border dispute between Cambodia and Thailand has hit the mainstream news – what’s behind the conflict?
Since late 19th century, the Preah Vihear Temple and the area surrounding it, has been a point of contention both within and between Cambodia and Thailand. The 11th century temple is considered a religious and historically significant Hindu shrine, located atop a cliff in the Dangrek Mountains, about 240 kilometres north of Phnom Penh.
In 2008, the temple was added to a list of UNESCO World Heritage sites, which fomented tensions between the two countries. In 2009, the dispute expanded to the 13th Century Ta Moan temple complex, 153 kilometres west of Preah Vihear, and turned violent, with troops from both countries exchanging fire.
The two neighbouring nations are yet to settle their disagreement over the territory; armed clashes have continued into this year, resulting in the deaths of troops and civilians from both sides, and the evacuation of villages near the border. Analysts believe both nations are using the conflict for political gains at home.
While the area in question is not near any 2h Project sites, the clashes present a problem that may have an impact on wider Cambodia. As well as a number of causalities, the armed clashes have resulted in the displacement of thousands from nearby villages, which poses a number of issues, including inadequate access to water and shelter, and disruption to children’s education.
For a country struggling to develop after years of turmoil Cambodia can ill afford another costly setback.