Preah Vi­hear rul­ing at cen­tre of bor­der dis­pute


Cam­bo­dia has asked the In­ter­na­tional Court of Jus­tice (ICJ) to clar­ify its 1962 rul­ing over the Hindu tem­ple of Preah Vi­hear as its mil­i­tary clashes with Thai­land con­tin­ued af­ter a truce.

“ The sub­mis­sion of this re­quest has been prompted by Thai­land’s re­peated armed ag­gres­sion to ex­ert its claims to Cam­bo­dian ter­ri­tory, on the ba­sis of its own uni­lat­eral map that has no legal ba­sis,” said a Cam­bo­dian For­eign Min­istry state­ment is­sued yes­ter­day.

The ICJ ruled in 1962 that “the tem­ple of Preah Vi­hear is sit­u­ated in ter­ri­tory un­der sovereignty of Cam­bo­dia”, but Bangkok ar­gues that the court ruled only that the sandstone ruin be­longs to Cam­bo­dia while the ar­eas sur­round­ing the Hindu tem­ple be­long to Thai­land.

The court based its judge­ment on a French-made 1: 200,000-scale map that in­di­cated the boundary line be­tween Siam, as Thai­land was then known, and French In­dochina.

Thai­land ar­gued that the boundary line should fol­low the wa­ter­shed of the Phnom Dan­grek Moun­tains in ac­cor­dance with the 1904 and 1907 Franco-Si­amese treaties. The dis­puted ter­ri­tory is a 4.6-square-kilo­me­tre area sur­round­ing Preah Vi­hear.

Phnom Penh ex­er­cised its rights in ac­cor­dance with Ar­ti­cle 60 of the ICJ Statute, which says: “ The judge­ment is fi­nal and with­out ap­peal. In the event of dis­pute as to the mean­ing or scope of the judge­ment, the Court shall con­strue it upon the re­quest of any party.”

There have been many armed skir­mishes in the bor­der area since Cam­bo­dia man­aged to get Preah Vi­hear listed as a World Her­itage Site in 2008, against Thai­land’s wishes. Bangkok feared Cam­bo­dia would turn the dis­puted ar­eas ad­ja­cent to the tem­ple into a buf­fer zone for man­age­ment of the prop­erty.

Phnom Penh con­sid­ers the re­quest for ICJ clar­i­fi­ca­tion a preven­tive mea­sure to avoid fur­ther armed con­flict be­tween the two coun­tries, to stop loss of lives and to pre­serve the Hindu tem­ple from se­ri­ous dam­age.

Prime Min­is­ter Ab­hisit Ve­j­ja­jiva said his gov­ern­ment had an­tic­i­pated that Cam­bo­dia would re­quest an ICJ clar­i­fi­ca­tion and that Thai­land had or­gan­ised a legal team to fight in court.

“We don’t have a dis­ad­van­tage in fight­ing in the world court. We are well pre­pared in terms of legal as­pects and facts,” Ab­hisit said.

The bor­der con­flict be­tween the two coun­tries has ex­tended to other ar­eas in­clud­ing near Ta Muan Thom and Ta Kwai tem­ples in Surin prov­ince, about 150 kilo­me­tres west of Preah Vi­hear, since last week. The fight­ing has con­tin­ued de­spite mil­i­tary com­man­ders in the area reach­ing a cease­fire deal on Thurs­day.

The fresh clash af­ter the truce killed a Thai mil­i­tary ranger and in­jured five oth­ers. Both sides blamed each other for fir­ing first.

Thai Army chief Prayuth Chanocha said the clash took place be­cause Cam­bo­dian sol­diers threw grenades at the Thai side and Thai troops fired small arms to re­tal­i­ate.

How­ever, Prayuth said he re­mained hopeful of achiev­ing peace with Cam­bo­dia, say­ing the lat­est clash might be caused sim­ply by undis­ci­plined sol­diers who did not obey their com­man­ders’ in­struc­tions to cease fire.

A Cam­bo­dian com­man­der ac­cused Thai sol­diers of fir­ing first. “ They be­gan fir­ing ar­tillery shells at our troops at Ta Krabei [Ta Kwai] tem­ple at 4.50am,” Suos Sothea, deputy com­man­der of the ar­tillery unit, told Xin­hua news agency by tele­phone from the bat­tle­field yes­ter­day.

“ Thai troops may not re­spect their su­pe­ri­ors be­cause on Thurs­day, their mil­i­tary com­man­der met with our com­man­der and reached a cease­fire, but this morn­ing they still shell us.

“How­ever, we did not fight back, as we are com­ply­ing with the cease­fire,” he said.

TWO of­fi­cials from an ex­plo­sives-dis­posal team carry the head of a BM-21 rocket. Many such rock­ets were found in a bor­der vil­lage in tam­bon Bak Dai, Surin province, af­ter Cambodian sol­diers started fir­ing on to Thai soil.

A BOY is all smiles amid paint­ings he and other chil­dren pro­duced dur­ing their free time at an evac­u­a­tion cen­tre in the bor­der province of Surin. Be­cause of the mil­i­tary flare-up along the Thai-Cambodian bor­der, thou­sands of peo­ple have been evac­u­ated.

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