Ruling on Thai-Cambodian Temple Row Expected Next Month


2013-10-16
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cambodia-preah-vihear-map-1000.jpg Thailand and Cambodia disagree over which country should administer a 4.6-square kilometer (1.8-square mile) tract of land surrounding the 11th century Preah Vihear temple.
RFA

The United Nations’ top court is set to deliver its verdict on a long-running dispute between Cambodia and Thailand over an ancient temple site next month, according to officials from the two countries.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague will decide on Nov. 11 which country should administer a 4.6-square kilometer (1.8-square mile) tract of land surrounding the 11th century Preah Vihear temple, the officials said, following a hearing on the case in April.

Both countries are confident the court would rule in their favor but have agreed to respect any ruling.  

“We expect the court will provide us justice,” Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Kuy Koung told RFA’s Khmer Service.

He said he hopes that the court will favorably consider arguments put forward by Cambodia, which currently administers the temple, but added that Phnom Penh is prepared to jointly implement the verdict with Bangkok, regardless of the outcome.

“Regardless of the decision, it will not affect cooperation or the relationship between Thailand and Cambodia.”

“Cambodia will implement the verdict, and after it is announced we are prepared to discuss with Thailand how to implement the verdict based on the spirit of friendship and good cooperation,” he said.

Kuy Koung said that Cambodia also expects Thailand to respect the ICJ verdict.

The Bangkok Post reported Wednesday that Thailand’s foreign ministry had also been notified by the ICJ that the ruling would be made on Nov. 11, saying the court had informed the country’s ambassador to the Netherlands on the matter.

It cited Thai Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul as saying that the ministry earlier believed the ICJ might move another case involving Peru and Chile up for consideration before making a ruling on the Thai-Cambodian dispute, but that the court decided to bring forward the Preah Vihear ruling.

The foreign ministry in Bangkok said that “no matter what the ruling may be, the Thai side is ready to accept it and cope with it,” the Post reported.

Long-running dispute

Hearings on the dispute were held in April after Phnom Penh asked for a reinterpretation of the court’s 1962 ruling that awarded possession of the temple to Cambodia, but did not take into account the now-disputed land surrounding it.

Each side has accused the other of using incorrect maps to better support its claim.

The Thai legal team argued that Cambodia’s “real request” was about reinterpreting the original ruling in its own favor, rather than about any ambiguities in the original ruling.

Thailand and Cambodia have had sporadic armed clashes since 2008, when the temple, located atop a cliff in the Dangrek Mountains, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The latest clashes left 10 dead in February 2011 and 18 dead in April that year.

Both countries pulled hundreds of soldiers out of the area in July 2012, a year after the ICJ asked the two countries to demilitarize the disputed zone and replace the soldiers with police and security guards.

While the site has since been free from bloodshed, tensions over the temple boundaries remain.

But according to independent commentator Lao Mong Hai, the ICJ verdict will finally put an end to the dispute between the two countries.

“This could lead to good cooperation and will benefit the two countries,” he said, adding that as long as a boundary is clearly defined, Thailand and Cambodia will take the opportunity to develop their areas along the border.

Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

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