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Kuman Thong: Ghost power protects Preah Vihear villagers

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Cambodian border villagers build bunkers with baby ghost spirit shrines to protect from possible violence after ICJ ruling Monday. 

'Kuman Thong' stand on top of a bunker under construction at Ban Ta Mieng in Phanom Dong Rak district in Surin. Villagers are doing everything from building bunkers to asking 'Kuman Thong' to safeguard the border with Cambodia as the Preah Vihear verdict nears. (Photo by Nopparat Kingkaew)


Villagers ask 'Kuman Thong' for help ahead of Preah Vihear verdict


Nopparat Kingkaew and Wassana Nanuam

SURIN - Soldiers guarding the border with Cambodia are not enough for one village living in fear of a possible resurgence in violent conflict over the Preah Vihear Temple, so locals began asking 'Kuman Thong' to boost their morale.

Around 30 villagers from Ban Ta Mieng in Phnom Dong Rak district of the northeastern province have started building new concrete bunkers and reinforcing old ones in time for Monday, when the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is scheduled to hand down its ruling on the area around the Hindu ruins. Other villages along the Thai-Cambodian border near Preah Vihear are doing the same.

At one bunker under construction in Ban Ta Mieng stands a pair of 'Kuman Thong' or child ghosts around 12 centimetres tall.

Ban Ta Mieng villagers are building more bunkers as the International Court of Justice ruling on the Preah Vihear temple draws near. (Photo by Nopparat Kingkaew)

Villagers say the protective spirits will bring them good luck, improve their morale and protect them from danger, since nobody knows whether or not violence will erupt after the court' s decision.

Locals hope armed clashes will not return to the border in a repeat of when relations between the two countries plunged over the territorial dispute encompassing 4.6 square kilometres around Preah Vihear. Thailand claims the area falls under Kantharalak district in Si Sa Ket.

In April 2011, armed fighting spread from Kantharalak to Phnom Dong Rak in Surin, affecting Ta Muen Thom, which is about 10 kilometres from the village, and neighbouring Ta Kwai.

Villagers are prepared for any potential situation which could unfold on Monday, they said.

The areas are still open for tourists but soldiers are not allowing them to take pictures or record videos.

The ICJ in The Hague will on Monday confirm whether its ruling in 1962 included the territory around Preah Vihear. The court ruled at that time that Preah Vihear was under Cambodian sovereignty and Cambodia asked the court in April 2011 to determine whether the ruling 51 years ago covered the temple's boundary.

The court will start reading the verdict at 11am in the Netherlands or 4pm in Thailand.

Foreign Ministry officials are at the border to explain the situation to locals throughout the ICJ ruling process, while the army is keeping a close watch on the affected areas.

Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha said the military - including the navy and the air force - is on alert and has stepped up border patrol operations. The armed forces are closely exchanging information and updating each other on the situation as it develops, he added.

"We are increasing measures on all fronts. We are reinforcing our forces to be ready to fully protect our sovereignty," Gen Prayuth said.

The armed forces, other security agencies and the ministry have held several rounds of talks. All parties have stressed that the ICJ ruling will not jeopardise close ties between the two countries, he added.


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alert: prepared to deal with something dangerous - ตื่นตัว ระวัง

armed: using weapons - ติดอาวุธ

armed forces: a country's army, navy and air force - กองทัพทุกเหล่าทัพ

boost: to increase; to strengthen - เพิ่ม; ทำให้มีกำลังมากขึ้น

border: the official line separating two areas, regions or countries - เขตแดน อาณาเขต

border patrol police: the part of the police force that is responsible for border security - ตำรวจตระเวณชายแดน

boundary: a real or imagined line that marks the edge or limit of something - เขตแดน,เส้นแบ่งเขต

bunker: a strongly built shelter for soldiers or guns, usually underground - หลุมหลบภัย, ที่กำบัง

claim: saying that something is true although it has not been proved and other people may not believe it - ข้ออ้าง ข้อกล่าวหา

clash: a brief fight between two or more people - การปะทะกันสองฝ่าย

close ties: close relations, friendly relations, being good friends -

concrete: a hard substance used in building made by mixing cement, sand, small stones, and water - คอนกรีต

confirm: to state or show that something is definitely true or correct, especially by providing evidence - ยืนยัน

conflict: an angry disagreement between people or groups - ความขัดแย้ง

construction: the work of building or making something, especially buildings, bridges, etc. - การก่อสร้าง

court: the place where legal trials take place and where crimes, etc. are judged - ศาล

determine: to officially find out or decide something - ตัดสินใจ  ชี้ขาด

encompass: to include a large number or range of things - รวมทั้ง, รวมเข้าไว้ทั้งหมด

exchange: (of two or more people) to give each other information - แลกเปลี่ยน

forces: the weapons and soldiers that an army, etc. has - กำลังรบ, กองกำลังติดอาวุธ

front: a particular area of activity - ด้าน

ghost: the spirit of a dead person that someone sees or hears - ผี

guard: a person who protects a place or people - ยาม, ผู้ดูแล, ยามรักษาการณ์

hand down: to say officially (what a court decision is); to say officially that someone should receive a particular punishment - ประกาศเป็นทางการ

International Court of Justice: the World Court; the main judicial body of the United Nataions - ศาลยุติธรรมระหว่างประเทศ

jeopardise: to risk damaging or destroying something important - เป็นอันตรายต่อ,เป็นภัยต่อ,ทำร่าย,ทำอันตราย

locals: people who live in a particular place - ชาวบ้าน

measure: a firm action taken to solve a problem or stop a dangerous unpleasant situation - มาตราการ

military: connected with soldiers or the armed forces - ในทางทหาร,เกี่ยวกับทหาร

ministry: a government department that has a particular area of responsibility - กระทรวง

Ministry of Foreign Affairs: The ministry in charge of maintaining relations with other countries and looking after the interests of its citizens living abroad. - กระทรวงการต่างประเทศ

morale: the amount of confidence and enthusiasm, etc. that a person or a group has at a particular time - กำลังใจ, ขวัญ

neighbouring: located or living near or next to a place or person - ติดกัน, ที่อยู่ใกล้เคียง, ที่ตั้งอยู่ใกล้เคียง

officials: people who have the power to make decisions or enforce the law - เจ้าหน้าที่ผู้มีอำนาจ

operations: the activity or work done in an area of business or industry - ปฎิบัติการ

party: one of the people or groups of people involved in a situation, an official argument or arrangement - คู่กรณี

plunge: to fall quickly from a high position - ดิ่งลงมาจากท้องฟ้า

potential: possible in the future - ที่อาจเป็นไปได้

prepare: put in order, get ready - เตรียม, เตรียมตัว, เตรียมพร้อม, จัดเตรียม, ตระเตรียม

process: a series of actions that you take in order to achieve a result - แนวทางปฏิบัติ, กระบวน, วิธีการ

protect: to make sure that somebody/something is not harmed, injured, damaged, etc - ป้องกัน,อารักขา,คุ้มกัน

protective: providing or intended to provide protection - ซึ่งปกป้อง

province: on of many divisions of the government of a country into smaller parts - จังหวัด

record: a written account of something that is kept so that it can be looked at and used in the future - การบันทึก, รายงาน

reinforce: to make a group of police or soldiers stronger by adding more people or equipment to it - เสริมกำลังเจ้าหน้าที่

reinforce: to make stronger - เสริมให้แข็งแรงขึ้น

relations: official dealings between countries - ความสัมพันธ์ระหว่างประเทศ

repeat: something that happens again, i.e., which is very similar to a previous happen - การกระทำซ้ำ

resurgence: a new increase of activity or interest in a particular subject or idea which had been forgotten for some time - การฟื้นคืน, การกลับสู่สภาพ

round: one of a series of events, activities, etc. - รอบ

ruins: the remains of a building that has been badly damaged or destroyed - ซากปรักหักพัง

rule: control over the government of a country - การปกครอง

ruling : a decision by a court of law - คำตัดสิน คำชี้ขาด

scheduled: planned to happen at a particular time or day - ตามตารางเวลา

security agency: the army or the police or some other similar organization - ทหาร,ตำรวจ

situation: all the circumstances and things that are happening at a particular time and in a particular place - สถานการณ์

sovereignty: the right to rule a country or area - อำนาจอธิปไตย อำนาจเด็จขาดเหนือพื้นที่

spirit: the soul thought of as separate from the body and believed to live on after death; a ghost - วิญญาณ

stepped up: increased - เพิ่ม

stress: to emphasise something such as an idea, fact or detail; to explain why something is important - เน้น

talks: negotiations; when two sides that disagree get together and "talk" to reach some agreement - การเจรจา, การเจรจาต่อรอง

territorial dispute: a disagreement over who owns a particular area of land or sea -

territory: an area of land controlled by a particular country, leader or army - อาณาบริเวณ  อาณาเขตประเทศ

unfold: to happen, or to develop - ปรากฏออกมา

update: to get or give the most recent information or news about something - ให้ข้อมูลใหม่ๆ

verdict: a decision by a court of law - คำพิพากษา

violence: physical force with the deliberate intention of causing damage to property or injury or death to people - ความรุนแรง, การใช้กำลังทำลาย

violent: involving or caused by physical force that is intended to hurt or kill somebody - รุนแรง, ร้ายแรง, สาหัส

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