Preah Vihear and Google – a roundup

Remember last month when Cambodia complained to Google about its incorrect maps at the Preah Vihear border? Ogle Earth has a nice roundup about the disputed maps and a little background to the border spat. I found it quite interesting that when the temple was awarded to Cambodia by the ICJ, Thailand didn’t lower the flagpole flying over Preah Vihear and dug out the flagpole – with flag still flying – and moved the pole into Thai territory a kilometre away.

Where does Google stand on the Thai-Cambodian border at Preah Vihear Temple?
Ogle Earth, 07 Feb 2010 (via Changwat, Amphoe, Tambon)

All these signs point to what appears to be an actual line of control that lies well inside the border as drawn by Google. Strictly speaking, Cambodia’s complaint has some merit.

But is Google to blame for all this? Is there a nefarious plot afoot to deny Cambodia its rightful greatness under the Sun, etc, and is Google being “pretentious”?

No, of course not. As can easily be verified by turning off border data in Google Earth’s Layers sidebar, credit for the yellow line goes to Tele Atlas, which provides much of this kind of information to Google Earth. Where Tele Atlas gets its data from is another story — most likely, it acquired Thailand’s official border dataset, and used it unmodified and uncritically.

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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