Google Earth as Casus Belli?

At a seminar at the Institute of Asian Cultures in Tokyo last week, I learned of the long and occasionally deadly heritage conflict between Cambodia and Thailand over the ancient Khmer temple of Preah Vihear

Now there is apparently a digital connection, brought on by the site’s positioning on Google Earth.

According to the Agence France Press:  

“Cambodia has accused Internet giant Google of being “professionally irresponsible” over its map of an ancient temple at the centre of a border dispute with Thailand… The Google map “places almost half of the Khmer (Preah Vihear) temple in Thailand and is not an internationally recognised map,” said the letter written by the secretary of state of the Cambodian Council of Ministers, Svay Sitha. He described the map as “radically misleading”.

“We, therefore, request that you withdraw the already disseminated, very wrong and not internationally recognised map and replace it,” Svay Sitha wrote.  The complaint was made as Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen was Saturday making his first visit to the 11th century Preah Vihear temple.”

It is amazing to me that Preah Vihear was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2008, in light of the continuing territorial controversy between the neighboring states.  Despite a 1962 World Court ruling that the temple lies within Cambodian territory, Thailand has insisted on its own claims to the area, and the inscription of the site on the UNESCO World Heritage List seems more likely to cause regional conflict than to enhance its “Outstanding Universal Significance.” 

And it seems that deadly border tensions around the Temple are indeed heating up again.


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