Friday, July 22, 2011

Cambodia, Thailand initiate deal on temple dispute

Breaking News Updated July 22, 2011 11:53 AM
PHNOM PENH (Xinhua) – Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Friday the country has proposed an agreement with Thailand in order to comply with the order of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to define a demilitarized zone around the 11th century Preah Vihear temple.
"On Thursday, we had sent the draft agreement to Thailand, Indonesia, The Hague, and the United Nations Security Council," he said during a press briefing to express Cambodia's stance on the border issue with Thailand.
According to the seven points of the draft agreement proposed by Cambodia, it said that with a view to implement the immediate withdrawal of all military personnel from the provisional demilitarized zone (PDZ) as defined in the ICJ's order, Cambodia and Thailand, in cooperation with the Indonesian observer teams, shall inform the court on the details of its military personnel and their positions, as of 18 July, 2011, within the PDZ.
With a view to ensure Cambodia's free access to the temple of Preah Vihear and to maintain normal administration within the PDZ, each party, in cooperation with Indonesia, shall report to the Court on the status of any non-military activities as of July 18 2011 within the PDZ.
After the entry into force of this agreement, both parties request the speedy assignment and dispatch of the Indonesian observer teams, on behalf of ASEAN, as indicated in the Court's order and as agreed in the statement by the ASEAN chair on Feb. 22 in Jakarta.
Once the Indonesian observer teams are in place, the parties shall cooperate with the Indonesian observer teams to determine the location on the ground of Points A, B, C and D of the PDZ.
Both parties, in cooperation with the Indonesian observer team, shall draw up a timetable for the immediate withdrawal of all their respective military personnel from the PDZ.
In accordance with the order, this agreement shall not prejudice the works of the General Border Committee and Joint Border Committee with a view to demarcate the border and assure security and order at the border.
"If the temple area is formed as the demilitarized zone, there will be no more bloodshed between the two nations," said Hun Sen. The U.N. Court on Monday ordered Cambodia and Thailand to immediately withdraw their military personnel currently present in the provisional demilitarized zone around the area of Preah Vihear temple.

Playing by other's rules is a losing game

The Nation
By Thanong Khanthong
Published on July 22, 2011

A high-level Thai military officer supervising the Thai-Cambodian border has pointed out that the International Court of Justice's orders on Monday have put Thailand at a disadvantage in the territorial dispute with Cambodia (see
Of the six orders announced by the International Court of Justice, four go against Thailand's interests, the military officer who asked not to be named said.
Moreover, the ICJ has gone beyond Cambodia's provisional requests in issuing orders. Cambodia requested in April that the ICJ, known as the World Court, issue 1) injunctions for Thailand to withdraw its troops from the disputed site, 2) a ban on all Thai military activity in the area surrounding the Preah Vihear/Khao Phraviharn temple, 3) an order for Thailand to refrain from any act or action which could interfere with its rights.
Let us go through the court orders one by one.
The first court order says Thailand and Cambodia shall immediately withdraw their military from the provisional demilitarised zone indicated. The Thai military officer commented that Thailand loses on this first count because its legal team argued in the court that Cambodia's provisional requests for the withdrawal of Thai troops from the border area must be thrown out.
But the ICJ insisted on its jurisdiction and competence by taking up the 50-year-old case again as requested by Cambodia.
The second court order directed both sides to refrain from any military presence within the designated zone and from any armed activity directed at the zone.
The Thai military source said Thailand and Cambodia have a draw on this count.
The third court order said Thailand shall not obstruct Cambodia's free access to the temple or provision of fresh supplies to its non-military personnel in the temple.
The Thai military source said this order amounts to a breach of Thai sovereignty because Cambodia would be allowed to build roads and facilities on Thai soil to gain access to the Khao Phraviharn temple.
He stressed that the key to the court ruling lies in this order. For Cambodia has already encroached on the overlapped 4.6 square kilometres by building a road to the Khao Phraviharn temple for a distance of 1.8 kilometres.
The fourth court order said both parties should continue cooperating within Asean and allow appointed observers access to the provisional demilitarised zone.
The Thai military source said this went beyond Cambodia's provisional requests. Besides, Thailand would like to have bilateral talks with Cambodia over the border territories rather than engaging a third party.
The fifth court order said both parties should refrain from any action which might aggravate or extend the dispute before the court or make it more difficult to resolve.
And the sixth order said each party must inform the court as to its compliance. The Court shall remain apprised of matters which form the subject of the order.
The Thai military source said the fifth and sixth court orders also went beyond the provisional requests of Cambodia.
A question should thus be raised over the jurisdiction of the World Court and its competence in reviewing and issuing orders in response to Cambodia's provisional requests. Moreover, the World Court issued orders that went beyond the requests of Cambodia. There is a risk that Thailand would lose territory if it were to play by these World Court rules.
Thailand had earlier decided to withdraw from Unesco's World Heritage Convention when it appeared that Unesco was tilting in favour of approving the Cambodian proposal of a World Heritage management plan for Khao Phraviharn. Implementing the proposed management plan would amount to inviting outsiders to manage Thai territory.
It is a mistake for Thailand to appear before the court and put its argument. Thailand is not a member of the World Court, and it therefore has no obligation to follow the Court.

Yellow Shirts reject World Court ruling on Thai-Cambodian border dispute

Thursday, 21 July 2011 By MCOT
BANGKOK, July 20 - Thailand's yellow-clad protest movement, the People' Alliance for Democracy (PAD), on Wednesday issued a statement opposing the ruling of the United Nation's highest court ordering both Thai and Cambodian troops to withdraw from the disputed area near Preah Vihear temple.

PAD leader Sondhi Limthongkul read the group's statement saying the July 18 ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) puts Thailand at a disadvantage as Thai troops must withdraw deeper into their own territory despite Cambodian communities, Cambodian-constructed buildings and roads still occupying Thai territory.
"Thailand can solve this problem by rejecting the ICJ order, refusing to withdraw its troops, at the same time pushing the Cambodians back to their country and urgently restoring ties, especially with members of the United Nations Security Council." Mr Sondhi stated.
The PAD has staged prolonged rallies against the stance of Thai government on the Thai-Cambodian border dispute and urged it to revoke the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed with Cambodia in 2000, which it claimed put Thailand at risk of losing territory.
Another key PAD leader, retired-Gen Chamlong Srimuang, condemned the army for not doing its duty to protect the country's sovereignty and urged the troops not to withdraw from the disputed border as ordered by the World Court.
The ICJ on Monday ordered Thailand and Cambodia to immediately withdraw all military personnel currently present in the provisional demilitarised zone, as defined by the court, and to refrain from any military presence within that zone, and from any armed activity directed at it.
Thailand was ordered to not obstruct Cambodia’s free access to the temple, and to not prevent it from providing fresh supplies to its non-military personnel.
The court also said both countries must continue to cooperate within the framework of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and, most pointedly, allow ASEAN-appointed observers to have access to the provisional demilitarised zone.
PAD leader Pibob Thongchai read a statement calling on the new government led by the Pheu Thai Party to continue protecting the kingdom's sovereignty and announced its opposition to the court’s order.
Mr Pipob also urged the next government to speed up help for two Thai activists of Thailand Patriots Network, Veera Somkwamkid and Ratree Pipattanapaiboon, both jailed in Cambodia on spying charges, as soon as possible.
A Cambodian court on Feb 1 ruled that the pair were guilty of espionage, illegal entry, and trespassing in a military zone. Mr Veera was sentenced to an eight-year jail term while Ms Ratree was handed a six-year jail term.

Thai-Cambodian troops yet to pullback from border

Source: Radio Australia
Updated July 21, 2011 21:30:35

The International Court of Justice in the Hague on Monday ordered troops from both Thailand and Cambodia to immediately withdraw from disputed areas around the World Heritage-listed Preah Vihear temple.

But so far no one has moved.

Thailand's outgoing Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva says the decision on whether and when to comply with the ruling will rest with the next government.

But he has ordered foreign affairs and defence officials to set a direction for negotiations to take place.

Presenter: Bill Bainbridge
Speaker: Helen Jarvis, a member of the delegation to World Heritage Committee, and adviser to the Cambodian Government
BAINBRIDGE: Helen Jarvis on Monday, Cambodia's Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Nam Hong said that the ruling would lead to a permanent ceasefire and said it was tantamount to a cessation of aggression of Thailand against Cambodia, yet troops on both sides are yet to move. When we can expect to see this decision implemented?

JARVIS: Yes, good morning Bill. I think from the Cambodian side it's documented that the decision will begin to be implemented immediately, as you said. But Hor Nam Hong himself has written already to the Indonesian observers which were agreed in February this year, and asking them to be assigned speedily, and as soon as they're in place the Cambodians are ready to start withdrawing.

BAINBRIDGE: But are the Cambodians prepared to move before the Thai troops move?

JARVIS: I don't think that's a realistic expectation. I think the area was declared to be a demilitarised zone, with both sides leaving, and I would imagine that it would be an agreed drawback on both sides.

BAINBRIDGE: But it would seem from what the outgoing Thai Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva has said that he's expecting a period of negotiation and he's expecting a decision to be made by the next Thai government, which may not be formed, sworn in for a couple of weeks. So we could still be looking at several weeks of stalemate - is that your understanding of it?

JARVIS: I'd try to put (several words indistinct) the new government would have to make some decisions in Thailand. But from the Cambodian side, there's no need for more negotiations, the decision was clear, the demilitarised zone is very clearly marked on the map and as soon as the Indonesian observers arrive, there's no reason why the withdrawal can't immediately take place.

BAINBRIDGE: And have we had an indication from Indonesia when observers may arrive? Are discussions on having observers sent over are they underway?

JARVIS: I understand so, and certainly they've been ready to come or they've been in the process for some months as you would know because of the agreement on the 22nd February. There's been a number of drafts, terms of reference in fact, seven drafts as the Thais were changing what they wanted. But in any event with the new government one is expected that that would move forward fairly quickly.

BAINBRIDGE: But I'm wondering whether the Indonesian observers will be prepared to go in there before both sides had withdrawn. I mean it seems that that's not enough for the Thai side to withdraw. Do you think that they'll go there unless there's a complete withdrawal of both sets of troops?

JARVIS: Oh, I would think so. Remember it's a small group of I think something like around 30 people was originally envisaged I not sure what the final decision would be - But it's not like moving in battalions, so it can be done fairly quickly, and the expectation is the order has been given. Clearly, there's no military action to take place in that zone as ordered by the court, so there shouldn't be any need for the actual withdrawal before the Indonesian observers come in. There should be no military action.

BAINBRIDGE: I mean the court has said there shouldn't be any military action, but we've seen before with troops there and with the tension of the situation stray shots can be fired and this could spark conflict. Have there been any moves made on the Cambodian side at least to ensure that a situation like that can't arise which would set back the process of negotiation considerably?

JARVIS: For some time now, the Cambodian government and particularly the Prime Minister has been ordering the troops to (words indistinct) to be very careful not to allow any flare up or unforseen developments, and I think there's a great opportunity at the moment following Monday's ruling. So I think the situation is much less tense than it was before. Of course along with Monday's ruling we also have the very clear result from the Thai election, which I think has made everybody feel more optimistic.

BAINBRIDGE: And going back to the ruling, is the Cambodian side happy with the ruling? I mean this is really only an interim measure while it contemplates Cambodia's main request for an interpretation of the 1962 order. Is the Cambodian side content with where things sit at the moment?

JARVIS: Oh yes absolutely, because we know that the ICJ (International Court of Justice) moves slowly and it would have been some time before they could reach a ruling on the request for an interpretation, which is why Cambodia asked for the protective measures and they've come in pretty quickly. And they are pretty clear. I mean Thailand tried to request the court to dismiss the application, that was unanimously rejected by the court, and they went on to move provisional measures mostly as requested by Cambodia. So yes we are optimistic now that the temple can be safeguarded because the Thai military will be out of the immediate zone, the ASEAN observers will be in, and there's a clear order against any military action nearby. So this is terribly important from Cambodia's point of view. And in addition free access to the temple was specifically ordered by the court, which means restoration work, management of the temple can go ahead, because this was one thing that of course has been inhibited over the recent months.

BAINBRIDGE: And Thailand withdrew from negotiations last month over a Cambodian proposal to manage the temple area. Can you tell us, are you expecting to return to those negotiations after this decision?

JARVIS: The decisions in the World Heritage Committee have been made. The temple was listed in 2008 as world heritage, and that's a final and definitive decision. The documents concerning the management plan have been filed according to the regulations of the World Heritage Committee, and what we expect to move forward to is despatch of experts to look at the long term needs of restoration of the temple, and of course the specific immediate measures that will be required urgently as a result of some of the damage from the fighting. But those experts can come as soon as these measures are in place, and as I mentioned free access is provided in the order. As to the Thais, there's no need for any further negotiation on this, this is actually in reality in the World Heritage Committee now.

BAINBRIDGE: And just finally, Helen Jarvis, a lot of Cambodian civilians who are living near the border have been displaced by the conflict there. Are you able to update us on the situation of those people? When will they be able to return to their homes and their villages, or are they already back there?

JARVIS: Most of the displacement was around the other temples, Ta Moan and Ta Krabei, which is 150 kilometres further west. But there were some 13-thousand displaced around the temple, in the area near the temple. Those people have come back, but the problem is that huge areas have been contaminated with unexploded ordinance and in particular cluster bombs. And this is very damaging of course to people's livelihood, and it's a great pity because efforts were made over six years to de-mine this whole area, to open up the temple for tourism and also for people to live in areas away from the temple itself. And now, this all has to be done all over again, which is very, very demanding.

Indonesian observers allowed after withdrawal of Cambodian troops: Thai PM


Thailand's caretaker Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said on Thursday that no Indonesian observers would be allowed to enter the disputed border area near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple until Cambodian troops had left.

The outgoing premier added that further discussions between Phnom Penh and Bangkok are necessary as both sides have different positions on the issue.

Following Cambodia's application in late April for reinterpretation of the World Court's 1962 ruling and provisional measure, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on July 18 ordered both countries to remove their troops from the disputed area.

The court went beyond Cambodia's request for immediate and complete withdrawal of the Thai military from the area, ruling that both countries should allow observers from the Association of South East Asian Nations into the area to observe a cease-fire.

Meanwhile, Thai Army Region 2 commander Lt-Gen Thawatchai Samutsakorn made a remark that military withdrawal could not be realized at the moment as the army would have to wait until the new government is formed.

The ICJ ruled in 1962 that the 900-year-old Preah Vihear Hindu temple was located in an area under Cambodian sovereignty. However, both sides have laid the claim to some 4.6 square kilometer land surrounding the temple.

Tensions have mounted since 2008 when the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization listed the temple as a World Heritage Site, triggering sporadic clashes along the border. In February, some 10 people were killed and thousands fled to makeshift camps while about a score of people were killed and almost hundred thousands were forced to seek shelters in April.

Indonesia and ASEAN’s peace-making role

PLE Priatna, Jakarta | Fri, 07/22/2011 8:00 AM   
Thailand and Cambodia must immediately withdraw their military personnel from the disputed-area of Preah Vihear Temple. Both countries should continue their cooperation within ASEAN and in particular, allow the observers appointed by ASEAN to have access to the provisional demilitarized zone.

Thailand and Cambodia also had to refrain from any action which might aggravate or extend the dispute before the court or make it more difficult to resolve. The answers from the UN’s highest court on the case of Cambodia’s request for clarification on Preah Vihear’s status to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) was released last Monday (ICJ order No. 2011/22 dated 18 July 2011).

A new Thailand-Cambodia relationship has to begin. “It is encouraging to note that United Nations Security Council and now International Court of Justice have recognized ASEAN to play a role in facilitating a resolution. I heard from both sides that they remain committed to peace and following the process to implement it. Both sides also continue to welcome the appropriate engagement of ASEAN,” said Marty Natalegawa, Indonesia’s foreign minister, in his capacity as ASEAN chairman, to the media in Bali on Tuesday.

This ICJ’s fundamental clarification was coincidently being given to ASEAN as Indonesia is hosting the 44th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting/ Post Ministerial Meeting (PMC)/ 18th ARF and East Asian Summit Ministerial Consultation in Bali, July 16-23, 2011.

Although there is no such ICJ delegation to the ASEAN meeting, the said ICJ announcement, once again, has explicitly mandated ASEAN and Indonesia to respond rapidly on the case.

This does not only provide momentum for ASEAN to contribute in the dispute settlement mechanism and conflict resolution, but also for institutionalizing ASEAN’s rapid
response, which is very relevant to the people and regional stability.

The new face of the Thai-Cambodia relationship, consequently, should be implemented first by a demilitarization process and then allowing the neutral observers to come in. The tripartite agreement of the Jakarta package solution on May 9, 2011, which was initiated by Marty, had actually put an Indonesia observer team as part of the new peace process.

At this moment, there is no reason at all for both sides to delay again and find “another political judgment”, just to disregard this ICJ’s decision. The current ICJ’s clarification had a binding effect and created international legal obligations for both sides as well.

Thailand and Cambodia respectively have the legal obligation to accept and “surrender part of their sovereignty” to respect with their new binding situation. While there is no longer a choice available for both sides to receive “non-military personnel” as agreed to step into the current peace process.

Let ASEAN restart the work without delay to build a real permanent ceasefire and peace-making process, and first-thing-firsts as a prerequisite to have Thai-Cambodia comply with the ICJ.

Without serious acts of compliance and military withdrawal from the conflict zone, there will only be new problems for Thailand and Cambodia. The act of defiance will not help both conflicting parties find another path to a new solution.

Creating disobedience to the ICJ, the non-compliance act, in turn, will only bring both sides to conflict, not only ASEAN and the UN, but also unnecessary regional instability. Non-compliance would lead to a deepening of the conflict and invite the UNSC and its peace-keeping operation, if necessary, to get involved.

Yingluck Shinawarta, as Thailand’s next leader who will hopefully be supported by PM Hun Sen, both sides had to prove their basic compliance with peace-making and opening restoration of Thai-Cambodia relations through new perspectives, compromise and compliance. Peace-making is much more difficult than waging war. Thai-Cambodia should be able to maintain peace at the border until the process of demilitarization is truly under way.

Thailand’s precedent to withdraw from the UNESCO-World Heritage Committee’s membership and walk out from the other front of Thai-Cambodia’s dispute at the 35th session of the World Heritage Committee last May, which were both strongly linked to the question of nationalism and sovereignty, should not be applied to the new ICJ clarification case.

Abhisit’s political pressure last February to push UNESCO to delist Preah Vihear as a World Heritage site has not successfully given “political compensation” for the loss of the ICJ’s case. Thailand has strongly protestes UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee by withdrawing its membership, which did not offer a shortcut to a solution.

In the name of protection of sovereignty and because of the disagreement over Preah Vihear’s management plan, Thailand rejected UNESCO experts sent to conduct reparations and restorations of the temple in a disputed-area.

That small example should not be treated as a model or inspiration to run from the spirit of compliance and negotiation.

The demilitarization process, in fact, will be difficult and time-consuming because there is still a residual indication element of non-compliance. Thai Minister of Defense Gen. Prawit said as quoted by Bangkok Post last May: “If the ICJ ordered us to withdraw, I still could not do so, because the area also belongs to Thailand.”

According to that statement, ASEAN, consequently will have another test to mediate post the ICJ’s decision. One of the biggest challenges for ASEAN’s peace-making role in this case is still non-compliance mixed with the possibility of a proxy military clash at the border.

The writer is a political scientist, alumnus of the University of Indonesia