The Return of Battambang Province to Cambod

The Return of Battambang Province to Cambodia

          After the collapse of the fortified fort at Banteay Longvek, the power of Cambodia got weakened. The Vietnamese and Thai continued to threaten Cambodia. In 1794, Battambang province fell under the control of Thailand. Preah Bat Ang Duong was anxious about the future of Cambodia and requested assistance from France. In 1859, the French established themselves in Prey Nokor, they later extended their colonial rule over Cochinchina or Kampuchea Krom, Khmer territory annexed by the Vietnamese. In 1863, Preah Bat Norodom delivered Cambodia to the French protectorate, which freed Cambodia from interference by Thailand and Vietnam. In 1859, the Thai king agreed to recognize French control over Cambodia, but Thailand continued to control Battambang, Siemreap, Sisophon, Mlou Prei and Tonle Ropov provinces. In 1883, a French – Khmer treaty was made to retain Cambodia under the French protectorate. From then, the Khmer were actually colonized by the French, as they were the protectors of the Khmer. The French planned to take Battambang and Siemreap by military force. But in 1886, numerous conflicts occurred between the French and Thai in Laos. French troops pushed Thai troops out of northern Laos and the French decided to liberate the region on the left of Mekong River, including Cambodia’s Tonle Ropov province and Laos’s Champasak province. In 1893, discussions took place between Mr. Pavie for the French and Prince Tevavong for the Thai, but with no resolution. The French sent two warships up the Chao Prakya River, which reached Bangkok on July, 8, 1893. On July 20, the French sent a warning to the Thai. The Thai king, Phra Chulalongkorn, capitulated on the twenty – ninth of the same month. The Thailand agreed to sign a Thailand – French treaty on October 3, 1893, stating that Thailand agreed to withdraw from the left side of the Mekong River. The French sent troops to occupy the Thai province of Chantaburey in order to force the Thai to honor the treaty. But the French did not yet demand that Battambang and Siemreap be returned to Cambodia. The third article of the treaty, however, required Thailand to withdraw its troops from a twenty – five kilometer wide area stretching along the right side of the Mekong River, including Battambang and Siemreap. The Thai, therefore, did not have the right to place troops or build forts in those two provinces. Thailand sent police to maintain their control over un-militarized zones along the Mekong River. Conflict resulted from the application of article four of the 1893 Treaty which asserted “the right of the French to protect the Khmer, Vietnamese, and Laotian who lived in Thai territory. The French needs to legally protect these people from abuses by the Thai authorities”, article four resulted in the loss of Thai domestic sovereignty. The Thai were continually looking for a means to negate article four. Thai authorities used very means to force Khmer living under their control to call themselves Thai. In 1896, the French sent a representative to live in Battambang to protect the legal rights of Khmer, Lao, and Vietnamese people. In 1897, the Thai king, Chulalongkorn, went to visit Europe, including Russia, Germany, England, and France, in Paris, Phra Chulalongkorn met with the French president, Felix Faure, and proposed that Article Four of 1893 Treaty be abolished Article Four if Thailand would return Battambang, Siemrap, and Chantaburey to France. In 1902, French signed a treaty with Thailand, ending French protection of Khmer, Vietnamese, and Laotians as stated in Article Four of the 1893 treaty in exchange for Mlu prei and Tonle Ropov, which contained approximately twenty thousand square kilometers. This new treaty was severely criticized by the French, and they decided not to honor it. In 1904, the French forced Thai to sign a treaty returning Mlu Prei and Tonle Rupov to the Khmer. This treaty contained a secret article according to which the Thai were required to give control of Battambang, Siemreap, and Sereysaophoan to the French. French commanders then came to Battambang to train troops. At the same time, the French asked the Thai to allow them to build a cooperative railroad from Battambang to Phnom Penh. In 1906, the French Prime Minister, Clemenceau, requested another negotiation with Thailand. This occurred without difficulties. The negotiation resulted in a treaty drawn up on March 23, 1907. According to Article One of that treaty, Thailand returned Battambang, Siemreap, and Sereysaophoan to France, and the France returned Dansay, Krat, and other islands from south of Lemling Cape to Kut island to Thailand. The exchange of territory occurred twenty days after the treaty was signed. The French Governor General of Indochina ceded Battambang, Siem Reap, and Sereysaophoan to the Khmer king, Preah Bat Sisowath. Battambang province, which fell under the control of Thailand because of Chauvea Bean’s ambitions in 1795, was returned to its mother country during the reign of the Khmer king Preah Bat Sisowath and the reign of the Thai Phra Rama.V, or Phra Chulalongkorn.   1907 was an historic year for Battambang province, freed after a century of Thai control.

(Sourced: Book: Battambang during the time of lord governor).