Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Court ruling seen as pivotal to ending border row

Yingluck asks Cambodia to withdraw ICJ complaint, but Hun Sen wants a judgement issued instead

    Bangkok Post
  • The love-hate relationship between Thailand and its neighbour Cambodia will keep simmering this year _ and pundits are doubtful the border dispute between the two countries will be resolved in a hurry.
    Both countries are now looking forward to the International Court of Justice ruling over the ownership of the 4.6 sq km overlapping area around Preah Vihear temple. The ICJ will rule on the case late this year or next year.
    Some pundits believe that no matter what decision is handed down, it might be the last hope of the two countries to end the long-running border row.
    Critics say the border dispute between the two nations, especially over the area around the centuries-old Preah Vihear temple, is the root cause of bickering between both nations.
    The two countries claim ownership of the land. In 1962 the ICJ ruled the temple belonged to Cambodia, but it didn't rule which country had authority over the land on which it sits.
    The relationship between Thailand and Cambodia has been sour for years, with soldiers and civilians of both countries have been killed in border skirmishes. Cambodia called on the United Nations Security Council to mediate the problem.
    The council resolved that Indonesia, as the Asean chairman last year, must broker the situation. Cambodia carried on with its attempts to draw intervention from the international community and on April 28 last year asked the ICJ to rule which nation should be given the rights over the disputed border area near the Preah Vihear temple.
    The ICJ has asked both nations to defend their positions before the ruling.
    Bangkok sent a 600-page document along with 300 annexes to counter Cambodia's claim to the court on Nov 21 last year.
    The court forwarded them to Cambodia.
    Cambodia must send its defence document to the court before March 8.
    Bangkok will have the last chance to defend its position in June and the ICJ will inform both countries what further information is required.
    Cambodia sent another urgent request in the same application for the ICJ to issue provisional measures.
    It asked the court to order Thailand to withdraw its troops and stop all military activities around Preah Vihear.
    Thai ambassador to the Hague Virachai Plasai acted as an agent together with three foreign lawyers to defend the Thai position, with the Cambodian side led by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong.
    On July 18, the court ruled that the two countries must withdraw their troops from the 17.3 sq km demilitarised zone, of which 8.5 sq km is in Thailand and 8.8 sq km in Cambodia.
    A source said the court had no jurisdiction to consider the boundary issue as Thailand and Cambodia had their own mechanism _ a memorandum of understanding signed in 2000 which also covers issues such as the boundary.
    This was Thailand's first round of defence to the ICJ.
    Bangkok prefers to tackle the boundary problem through bilateral talks.
    Thailand believes it is not necessary to send a letter opposing the court's jurisdiction, as Thailand has opposed it since 1962 and believes its position is still valid.
    Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra had asked her Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen to withdraw the case from the ICJ, saying the relationship between the two countries has improved since the Pheu Thai Party seized power from the Democrats in July.
    "But Cambodia saw the ICJ's consideration was a better way out and it decided to let the court to have a final say in settling the dispute," Mr Surapong said.
    Both sides now anxiously await the outcome which could have impacts far beyond the border.
    Nobody can guarantee whether the people of both countries will accept the decision and whether lasting peace along the border will ever be seen.

    The Bangkok Post has picked seven issues that are expected to dominate the news this year. These issues could lead to drastic changes in the political, economic and social landscapes. This is the fourth part of the series.

    About the author

    Writer: Thanida Tansubhapol
    Position: Reporter

No comments: