Cambodian, Thai Military Chiefs Meet After Temple Ruling

cambodia-preah-vihear-commanders-nov-2013.jpg Thailand's General Thak Rakon Thamak Vithon (left) and Cambodia's Major-General Srey Dek (second from left) embrace during a meeting near the Preah Vihear temple along the Thai-Cambodia border, Nov. 12, 2013.

Cambodian and Thai military commanders stationed near a disputed border temple area met Tuesday in a bid to ease tensions following a ruling on the row by the U.N.’s top court.

Cambodia’s Major-General Srey Dek and Thailand’s General Thak Rakon Thamak Vithon pledged to maintain peace along the border as they met near the bottom of stairs leading up to the cliff-top Preah Vihear temple, a flashpoint that has sparked deadly clashes in recent years.

In a verdict delivered in The Hague on Monday, the International Court of Justice had ruled that the promontory on which the World Heritage Site temple sits belongs to Cambodia and that Thai troops and police must stay out of the area.

But the decision dealt with only a small portion of the disputed 4.6-square-kilometer (1.8-square-mile) area near the temple, leaving further resolution of the border dispute up to negotiation between the two countries.

Cambodia welcomed the ruling as a “historic” step forward in the peaceful resolution of the border dispute and Thailand accepted verdict, saying the two sides would hold talks to discuss the issue further.

Troops to withdraw after talks

Thak Rakon Thamak Vithon said Thailand would withdraw troops from the border area after talks between the two governments.

“The two countries will form a committee to implement the court’s order,” he told reporters at the meeting.

“The Thai side will withdraw from the disputed border so that there will be peace along the border,” he said.

Keeping the peace

Srey Dek, who heads Cambodia’s Preah Vihear operations, said his forces were implementing orders from Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to maintain peace and cooperation along the border.

“We have passed on to our soldiers Samdech [honorific] Hun Sen’s message to be patient and avoid any clashes along the border, and to cooperate with the Thais,” he told reporters, adding that the meeting would help improve cooperation between the two militaries.

Villagers living in the area had evacuated and prepared bunkers in the run-up to the verdict.

The ruling came after Cambodia requested a clarification of a 1962 ruling by the ICJ that awarded Phnom Penh possession of the temple without addressing jurisdiction of the surrounding land.  

Cambodia made the request in 2011 after clashes near the temple in February and April that year killed 28 people.  

In Monday’s verdict, the ICJ did not specify a border line around the temple, rejecting Cambodia’s claim to sovereignty over the Phnum Trap hill near the temple.

Reported by Sobratsavyouth Hang for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.


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