In military terms-a war between Thailand and Cambodia will be brutal.
Cambodia has threaten Thai high military command that it will throw about 10,000 battle hardened troops against the Thai force. Casualties from both sides can reach into the thousands.
Foreign press will be there to cover the entire conflict-and this war will be the biggest news in quite some-time.
There is no doubt the Thai military will win the operation-with tons of tanks and heavy artillery available-all stationed there already in E-Sarn. Thailand also has total air supremacy.
But even now, with the specter of war edging closer to reality every moment-with Cambodia open challenge to Thailand verbally and in fact, has already built roads way into Thai territory and the Thai government political agenda that desperately need to fan the flame of Nationalism-what is the Thai Foreign Ministry doing?
Well the head of the ministry is now under police query for terrorism activities relating to his support to close the Suvanabhum airport. The rumor mills has it that many senior people at the Ministry has given up trying to talk sense into the government.
Even as Thailand can put the flag on top of the disputed territory with Cambodia and Nationalism fever fans in the heart of Thais and keeps the current government in power, the collateral damage to Thailand will be extremely high.
First, there is no possibility any Thais can explain to anyone outside of Thailand that the disputed area is Thai-this is just a fact. The result of that is that they will see Thais as the aggressor.
Then to any fair minded individual, will also see it as a great big Thailand military machine going after a small country that is trying to protect its territory-and this will make the Thais look like an “Aggressive Big Bully” to the rest of the world.
Then there are direct impact on economic and business like Thai-Cambodia trade alone is about 70-80,000 billion baht a year that is about all in favor of Thailand. In directly, Cambodia is now increasingly part of the package of why tourist comes to Thailand and a war-well one can forget Thai tourism industry ever recovering for a very long time.
Other collateral damage includes a heightened attention to Thai politics-and the focus will be on all the bad things about Thailand-like its human rights record. Thais can expect bad coverage of Thailand for a very long time and this will inflict tremendous economic cost on Thailand.
International relations wise-Thais can forget about it all. Everyone will be clamoring to be on Cambodia’s side. Thailand will be isolated. And if the war drags on, international mediators may step in-opening Thailand to vulnerability for future mediation in Thailand’s Deep South. Severe cracks in ASEAN may occur.
For Cambidia, there is nothing to loose much, but tremendous gains to be made from the conflict.
And yet as a neutral observer here in Thailand that is somewhat Thai-I accept that the current government is the legitimate government of Thailand. And so while I can agree or disagree with it-it is still my government-meaning it has the mandate of the Thai people.
If the government thinks Thais should go to war with Cambodia, I may join in protesting the war-but it is still Thai soldiers on the line-and I will still pray for their safety and a quick victory.
But if there is indeed a war and after that-when the cost of the conflict begins to sink in and takes the edge off the Nationalism fever-the Abisit government can certainly count on people who thinks like me to cast our votes against him.
Internal politics of Thailand will be as equally as explosive as the war-further polarizing Thainad-resulting in severe internal political turmoil. Badly needed consumers confidence to keep Thailand’s economic recovery on-track will be derailed.
Over more-people like me may in fact re-think our political philosophy overall-and be against the right wing in general and turn seriously to the left to give it a try at running Thailand.