Monday, July 18, 2011

UN court to rule in Thai-Cambodia dispute

ICJ verdict due on Cambodia's request for Thailand to halt military activities around ancient temple on disputed border.
Last Modified: 18 Jul 2011 07:08
Thailand has said it will abide by the decision made by the ICJ [GALLO/GETTY]
The United Nation's highest court is set to rule on a request by Cambodia for the immediate withdrawal of Thai troops from a disputed border area around an ancient Khmer temple - the scene of years of violent clashes.
The Netherlands-based International Court of Justice's (ICJ) ruling is expected on Monday morning.
A public sitting will take place during which Judge Hisashi Owada, president of the ICJ, will read the Court’s order. Owada will be accompanied by a 14-judge bench and two ad hoc judges, an observer close to the ICJ told AFP news agency.
Cambodia in late April launched a bitter legal battle before the ICJ in which it asked for an interpretation of a 1962 ICJ ruling around the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple.
At the same time - while the court pondered its decision - Cambodia also asked judges to approve provisional measures including an immediate Thai troop withdrawal and a ban on all Thai military activity there.
Although Thailand did not dispute Cambodia's ownership of the temple, secured by the 1962 ruling, both sides claim ownership of the area surrounding the Khmer complex.
Front line
Al Jazeera's Wayne Hay, reporting from Sisaket on the Thai side of the Thai-Cambodian border said "This is the front line and one of the areas where we have seen some fierce fighting between the Thai and Cambodian troops".
"Across the ravine on the other side there is the ancient Hindu temple, the Preah Vihear temple, that was judged in 1962 by the ICJ to be Cambodia's. But no decision was made about this land, 4.6-square-km that both nations claim, and that is what they have been fighting over."
"Now if the ICJ judges in favour of Cambodia's request for Thai troops to withdraw from this area, all this will have to go. These bunkers will have to be packed up and the Thai troops will have to pull back," Hay said.
"The Thai government says it will abide by the decision by the ICJ."
The two countries orally argued their cases before judges at the end of May with Hor Namhong, Cambodia's deputy prime minister, asking for "an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all Thai forces from those parts of Cambodian territory situated in the area of the temple of Preah Vihear".
Cambodia also asked that "Thailand refrained from any act or action which could interfere with the rights of Cambodia or aggravate the dispute in the principal proceedings".
Appeal for ceasefire
Virachai Plasai, Thailand's ambassador to the Netherlands, responded by saying his country requested the ICJ to scrap Cambodia's case from the court's general list.
In February the UN appealed for a permanent ceasefire after 10 people were killed in fighting near the temple.
However fresh clashes broke out in April further west, leaving 18 dead and prompting 85,000 civilians to flee.
Cambodia said although there had been clashes in the past, Thai aggression substantially increased after July 2008, when the UN's cultural body UNESCO listed the temple as a World Heritage site.
But the 11th-century complex has been at the centre of a long legal wrangle between Thailand and Cambodia - which first took its southeastern Asian neighbour to the ICJ in 1959 over the issue.
Established in 1945, the ICJ is the UN's highest judicial organ and it settles disputes between states. It is the only one of six principal UN organs not located in New York.
Al Jazeera and agencies

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