Preah Vihear

Popular belief would have you surmise that once a man (or woman) puts on a uniform and is handed a gun, they will want to become killing machines. Preah Vihear demonstrated the opposite.

Thai troops have been despatched to occupy several Khmer temples and Cambodian national pride has again been bruised with accusations of “invasion” in the air. It can only be hoped that the confrontational neighbours will bury their differences rather than their dead.

In the real world and back at Preah Vihear when the crisis began, many seasoned observers expected tension to be high. It wasn’t. Thai and Khmer troops were comrades under arms. They spent their days sharing cigarettes, mooching about and passing round magazines with photos of this year’s hottest semi-clad models. After all, how many times can one discuss the merits of an AK-47 versus an M16?

As a tourist attraction, the standoff probably attracted more attention than the temple that was the root cause of troop movements from both sides of the border. Wives, girlfriends and hangers-on enjoyed the media attention, many savouring the chance to be seen in the company of Hun Sen’s wife.

Such imagery certainly played well to the millions who turned out to register their votes in Cambodia’s general election. The winner?