Virachai Plasai, Thailand's ambassador to The Hague, talked to THANIDA TANSUBHAPOL about the Thai legal team's efforts to fight Cambodia's request before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to have Thai troops withdrawn from disputed areas around Preah Vihear temple. The court ruled that both countries should withdraw their troops, not just Thailand.
After the ICJ ruling, what did you do?
We evaluated the court ruling on the troops' withdrawal from the provisional demilitarised zone covering about 19 square kilometres. The area is divided into three parts - 4 square kilometres in Thai territory, 10.4 square kilometres in Cambodia and the 4.6 square kilometres of disputed area claimed by the two countries.
I don't want to say now who is the loser or the winner as it is only a provisional measure.
It will be invalid after the ICJ finishes its consideration on another Cambodian request that the court interpret its earlier 1962 ruling on Preah Vihear.
I saw Monday's ruling as a success because the court ordered both countries to comply. The court really wants to see peace and good relations for both sides.
Does the court ruling affect the interpretation of the 1962 ruling?
No. The court said that the ruling was not a decision in advance [of the other case].
The court did not say who should occupy the area.
After the court listened to both sides, it said it had the power to order both countries to abide by the ruling and it was not necessary to rule in favour of Cambodia. It said the order should not go beyond the definition of the old case in 1962.
Will the court order make Thailand adjust its stance in fighting the interpretation case?
No. The interpretation of the 1962 ruling will only be about content.
We have a lot of evidence to defend the next case.
Now we have to see how Thailand and Cambodia can live peacefully together as good neighbours and if the Thai-Cambodian problem can be solved by the ICJ.
I will tell this to the court to help get rid of the animosity and develop a good relationship for mutual benefit.
A lot of evidence will be the facts of the 1962 verdict.
The court told me the evidence was valid and it would get involved with the interpretation so the two parties can comply with it.
We think Monday's court order will turn out to be a positive development for us going into the next case.
What do you think about the court's order that Thailand not block Cambodia's access to the Preah Vihear temple and the provision of food supplies to its non-military personnel there? Will this affect Thailand's decision to withdraw from the World Heritage Convention, as Cambodia might bring in machinery to repair the temple without informing Thailand?
I think the court intended to protect the cultural world heritage site. If we consider this order, those bringing in these supplies should not be soldiers and those who live in this area should not be soldiers either.
I think this court order is quite clear as it also ordered Cambodia to withdraw its troops from the temple which everyone accepts is under Cambodia's sovereignty.
I think the court was fair because it took into account everything that had happened along the border.
On what is the ICJ's map of the provisional demilitarised zone based?
I don't know. But I think the court doesn't want to see future clashes between the two countries, so it drew lines on the map that were wider than each side claimed.
This map will not affect the interpretation case and it cannot be used to claim anything in the future because it is just a provisional measure.
Will the ICJ ruling be a case study in the future?
Certainly. It is interesting to the point that neither country asked the court to define a demilitarised zone but the court did so anyway.
It was a significant, unprecedented step for the court to define it.
In addition, the court confirmed it has the power to force the two countries to abide by the provisional measures despite the fact that Cambodia asked it to order Thai troops to vacate the disputed area.
What will you do to prepare for the interpretation case?
At this stage, Thailand must submit to the court a brief that argues against Cambodia's request that the ICJ interpret the 1962 ruling.
The court will announce tomorrow the deadline for the countries to file their briefs.