Is the Thai military flexing its muscle with Cambodia?
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Is the Thai military flexing its muscle with Cambodia?

The Bangkok Post:

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has given the army the green light to conduct a military exercise near Preah Vihear temple to display its strength as Cambodia continues to lay claim to the disputed area.

A senior army source who asked not to be named said yesterday the military exercise near the border was proposed by the army.

We must show our strength,” the source quoted the prime minister as saying in his recent meeting with Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon and Gen Prayuth.

The source said Gen Prayuth planned to deploy infantrymen close to Preah Vihear in Kantharalak district of Si Sa Ket province.

The deployment will reinforce paramilitary rangers who are guarding a disputed area with no back-up.

The army plans to conduct a drill that includes artillery fire close to the border,” the source said.

The source revealed the military exercise was aimed at sending a message to Cambodia that Thailand is not only unhappy with the placement of the stone tablet in the disputed area but also Cambodia’s continuing construction of a road to Preah Vihear.

BP: There only appears to be a single source for this and no one has gone on the record. Today, when asked about it (presumably after reading the story in the Post) by reporters at Government House, Abhisit stated that the training by the military is normal and that the army will plan the training themselves. When asked if this was a drill, Abhisit answered “no”. When asked if live ammunition will be used, Abhisit stated “I haven’t heard anything about that.”

Suthep was similarly asked by reporters at Government House. He stated that it was a rumour and “we will not make the situation worse by doing that”. He also stated that “the government, the army, the civil service want to resolve everything through dialogue. There is no need for any sort of a special military drill.”

Separately, Army spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd was asked by a reporter and he stated that there is no such order for a drill. Sansern also stated that the defence minister and the army chief were very clear about how to defend the border and that it was important to maintain good relations between Thailand and Cambodia. He stated that there is no order like that from Abhisit to stage a drill and the military has no plan to do such a thing either. He said that the idea of staging such a drill would be “impossible” as it would be viewed as a “provocative act” which could heighten tension for both Thailand and Cambodia. He also said that live ammunition is never used during drills.

From what BP understands, whether it is referring to this drill or not, there are training exercises in Region 2 (Northeast), but they are not on the border.

BP: Hence, is Wassana’s source accurate?* Or once there was thinking out loud of the consequences everyone decides to back-peddle? Trying to think logically, why leak you are staging a drill and then deny it later? The point of any drill is to flex your muscles. You are not flexing your muscles if you are denying it. And if you are not flexing your muscles, what is the point of the drill in the first place? Will there now be a drill? If not, doesn’t it look that Abhisit is weak (i.e. there was going to stage the drill to appease the yellow/nationalists) but then they have chickened out? Thinking about it like this, it makes no sense from anyone close to the government to leak it (of course that doesn’t mean they didn’t).

Alternatively, if you wanted to embarrass the government and make them look bad, you would leak this (or you would hope that when the government hears about what action it has ordered the military to take and knowing that it would leak to step back, you hope that the government is forced to take such action so as not to appear weak). Logically, this answer seems to make more sense….

*BP doesn’t doubt she was told this and while wanting to be nice, from BP’s observation of things that she reports on she is sometimes told some things which are not true (whether she is deliberately lied too or the person telling her the information just has something wrong, BP is unsure – sources can have agendas too) and such stories do not seem to be checked with another on-the-record source or at least asking the person in question for a comment.

h/t to a reader