Senseless Row Over a Cambodian Temple Threatens African Children

While everyone is focused on the uprising in Egypt, part way around the world, Thailand and Cambodia are killing each other over a temple and the conflict threatens to kill millions of children on a completely different continent. Last year, UNESCO certified the Preah Vihear a World Heritage Site, and recognized it as rightfully belonging to Cambodia. Thailand across the border, likely in hopes of capitalizing of the vast tourist dollars (bhat?) which flow out of such sites, exploded, triggering a series of border clashes which have resulted in several deaths and the displacement of thousands of residents living along the border areas.

This strong arming of Cambodia over temple sites is not new to Thailand’s pattern of aggression against it’s neighbors. Angkor Wat, an internationally famous temple site, despite lying more than 150 miles from the Thai border, has long been claimed by Thailand. Conservative voices within Thailand have called for the Thai government to forcibly take Angkor Wat as a bargaining chip against Preah Vihear which would undoubtedly lead to an all out war between Thailand and Cambodia.

This not only poses a threat to regional and local stability and presents a danger to an important historical landmark, but also threatens efforts to contain a strain of drug-resistant malaria. After vast selective adaptation of P. falciparum malaria to standard malarial medications, Artemisinin Combination Therapy, a cocktail of malaria medications is the end of the line for effective treatments that prevent death from one of the world’s biggest killers. Recently, artemisenin resistant strains of malaria have been found in southeast Asia along the Thai-Cambodian border. Vast efforts are being undertaken to contain it’s spread.

It is widely feared that the strain will reach Sub-Saharan Africa, where ACTs are being successfully used to prevent mortality in children. If it does reach SSA, treatment efforts will be undermined and clinicians expect incredible spikes in childhood deaths. ACTs are expensive compared to other medications, but effective. Unfortunately, they are thought to be the last of effective treatments against malaria for the near future. If an artemisinin resistant strain of P. falciparum spread out of the border regions, it will likely reach sub-Saharan Africa in months. If this comes to pass, it is thought that millions more children will die than do already.

Border regions in any country are hot beds of poverty, violence and infectious disease which does much to explain why deadly strain of malaria are able to propagate along the Thai-Cambodian border. Containment efforts by public health groups are now undermined due to the senseless violence. Clinics are no longer able to effectively operate in the area. Displacement and instability forces residents to live in conditions conducive to the transmission of malaria, making a bad situation even worse, exacerbating the spread of dangerous strains of the disease.

All this over a single temple.

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About Pete Larson

Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the Nagasaki University Institute for Tropical Medicine

One response to “Senseless Row Over a Cambodian Temple Threatens African Children”

  1. Luis-Sama says :

    Everything is connected!

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