“Only the clarification of the verdict on June 15 from the ICJ can end the border dispute. The border conflict does not end with a ceasefire or the third-party observers, which can only help ease the tense situation for awaiting the border resolution,” Cambodian PM Hun Sen said at a graduation ceremony at the Royal University of Phnom Penh on Feb. 22, 2011.
“It’s impossible for the joint management plan for Preah Vihear temple with Thailand [to work],” Hun Sen reiterated recently.
Will the ICJ’s clarification bring peace and end the current Thai-Cambodian conflict permanently? Will the ICJ’s decision be good for ASEAN, as well?
Cambodia brought forth a legal petition to the ICJ merely to find legal justification to urge Thailand to withdraw its military from the sites, to ban all Thai military activities at Preah Vihear’s border and to stop acts that can be categorized by Cambodia as intervention.
To counter this, there are three basic arguments for Thailand that have been made against Cambodia, as argued by the head of the Thai delegation at the ICJ.
As Prof. Alain Pellet said, “Thailand believed the Temple case of 1962 was not related to the issue of the boundary line — and since Thailand had duly complied with the ICJ judgment, there would be no issue requiring interpretation.”
Furthermore, Prof. James Crawford said, “[The] ICJ had no jurisdiction and authority to make additional decisions for Cambodia, as the case was outside the scope of the Court’s jurisdiction.” Prof. Donald M. McRae further added that Cambodia’s request for indication of provisional measures “did not satisfy the court’s criteria.
The ICJ had no urgency or imminence to justify the demand of Cambodia. Cambodia’s request was unbalanced and highlighted progress made on the ground, including on the issue of dispatching an Indonesian Observers Team to the Thai side of the border.”
Starting from those contrasting illustrations, the ICJ’s judgement will not be easily accepted or automatically put peace in place. In the next 45 days — around July 15, 2011, as promised, the ICJ will have an answer. Thai-Cambodian relations, in turn, will not be the same again, with the existing conflict prevailing and no immediate end in sight.
Whatever the ICJ’s statement, one of the conflicting parties will not be in favor nor want to comply. For example, no one will withdraw the soldiers from the borders as it will eliminate their own respective sovereignty.
The Thai-Cambodian dispute is at stand-still, and disagreement will continue. Peace is again at stake, but hopefully the ceasefire can still be controlled at the border.
As long as Thailand and Cambodia restrict their dispute to political parameters, they have a right to settle the issue at hand. However, when a war is declared, endangering the civil society and the stabilization of the Southeast Asian region, ASEAN has the right to find a solution. Indonesia, as the ASEAN 2011 chairman, did. Even the UNSC mandated ASEAN to find immediate political mechanisms to mediate the conflict through establishing a workable ceasefire.
The question is, why did Cambodia undergo a trilateral negotiation with Thailand and Indonesia on May 9, 2011, in Jakarta, and then, a week before the 2011 ASEAN summit, bring the case before the ICJ? Jakarta’s package solution from May 9, 2011, which had been agreed upon by Thailand and Cambodia, was the most realistic workable solution.
When Cambodia decided to bring the case before the ICJ, it ensured that peace would not be established immediately. Even in the case of no-compliance, the UNSC, if necessary, can send a peacekeeping mission to the Thai-Cambodian border during conflict.
As members of the ASEAN family — who expects peace — it is disappointing to see how Thailand and Cambodia irresponsibly and deliberately disregarded their previous commitment to implementing Jakarta’s May 9, 2011, package solution.
This is the clearest example of a broken commitment amid the ASEAN community-building process. The way that Thailand and Cambodia heve dealt with their border dispute is disgraceful.
It is more than a negative political lesson that is being learned and witnessed by our fathers, children and the younger ASEAN generation. The right to peace, security and stability in the Southeast Asian region is our ultimate goal for the future, not the past.
ASEAN’s sacred mission of achieving peace, stability and prosperity must be built and strengthened by our leaders’ true commitment and honesty — not by their empty promises.
The writer is an Indonesian diplomat. The opinions expressed are personal.