Friday, July 22, 2011

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.

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