THAILAND - Perhaps Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has finally realised that he jumped on the wrong bandwagon over the controversial Preah Vihear Temple because his yellow shirts have turned against him and his government, accusing them of losing Thai territory.
The nationalist People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) alleges that the government had already recognised Cambodia's right over the temple, and victory over the delay in the consideration of Phnom Penh's management plan means nothing.
It's strange but true that the PAD, which is supposed to back this government, is echoing Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An's claim that Natural Resource and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti had accepted and signed the World Heritage Committee's decision 34 COM 7B.66.
One of five points in the decision cited that the committee "welcomed" steps taken by the state party (Cambodia) toward the establishment of an international coordinating committee (ICC) for the sustainable conservation of Preah Vihear.
Establishing the ICC is good, because the temple has been given World Heritage status since 2008. It is a basic requirement to have such a body run a heritage property.
However, much to PAD's delight, Thailand declined Cambodia's invitation to sit on the ICC. Establishing the ICC is equivalent to implementing the management plan, and the "welcome" as well as Suwit's acceptance justifies its implementation.
Common sense tells you that being invited to participate in the management of a World Heritage property should be an honour for Thailand. However, this government thought that joining the committee would be equivalent to accepting and recognising Cambodia's sovereignty over the temple and surrounding areas.
According to an International Court of Justice ruling in 1962, the Hindu temple of Preah Vihear is situated in territory that is under the sovereignty of Cambodia.
When Abhisit was opposition leader, he and his alliance PAD used a very strange argument - the court ruling was only on the ruins of the temple, not the area, which comes under the sovereignty of Thailand. In other words, Thailand accepted that the temple belonged to Cambodia, but not the land the temple is sitting on.
If Thailand recognised any activities - be they by Cambodia or the World Heritage Committee - in the area under question, it could be seen as recognising Cambodia's sovereignty, they said.
In reality though, the 250,000 square metres that the temple is sitting on was relinquished by a 1962 Cabinet decision to Cambodia. Like it or not, that land has already been given away.
The area that should be under dispute is the 4.6 square kilometres to the west and the north of the temple, as both sides claim it is theirs. In its management plan for Preah Vihear, Cambodia does not include the disputed area in the buffer zone. So, there's not much point in Thailand opposing the plan.
Yet, the PAD has been going beyond expectations - declaring that Cambodia dared to claim the temple's surrounding area because Phnom Penh used and Thailand recognised the French-Siamese joint boundary committee's 1:200,000-scale map. According to the PAD, the best thing would be for Thailand to reject this map.
Unfortunately though, it was a Democrat-led government under Chuan Leekpai that signed the memorandum of understanding for boundary demarcation in 2000. The pact recognised the map and Siam-Franco treaties as historical documents for boundary demarcation.
The PAD is mounting pressure on the government, while Abhisit is in a difficult position of having to steer away from his own rhetoric. He cannot fiercely oppose the PAD, because his Democrat Party and the PAD's New Politics Party share the same political bas.
The only option would be to blame Cambodia, but that's not easy either because border security and lives of people could end up being at stake.