Thailand may have violated international law and committed war crimes after its forces stationed near Preah Vihear temple damaged the ancient Hindu structure and destroyed the Cambodian market at its base, according to a report from the Cambodia Center for Human Rights.
The report states the Thai military breached International Humantarian Law by hitting the marketplace, a civilian target with no military significance, with three B60 rockets and gunfire during the brief conflict that erupted on the morning of April 3. The document also says the Thais obtained no military advantage from the fighting at Preah Vihear, which pockmarked the temple with shrapnel and bullet holes.
“It would therefore appear to be apparent that the Thai military, through its attack on the Preah Vihear Temple, has violated IHL, namely the 1954 Hague Convention,” which bars attacks against cultural property, the local rights group claimed.
The group also called on the Cambodia government to request a neutral body to investigate the situation further and request compensation from Thailand should the findings of the impartial investigator support those of the center’s report.
An official with the Thai Embassy who declined to give his name referred questions to the spokesman of the Thai Foreign Affairs Ministry in Bangkok, who did not respond to e-mailed requests for comment.
Rupert Abbott, a lawyer with the rights center, said the group conducted on-site interviews with the displaced villagers two weeks after the armed clash and spoke informally with some military officials posted at the disputed territory. No questions were posed to Thai officials, he said.
“This is really designed as a starting point,” he said Wednesday about the report, adding he hoped it would spark negotiations between Cambodia and Thailand. “But there are serious questions that need to be answered.”
Kuoy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the government has provided humanitarian aid to ousted vendors, but no demands have been made regarding compensation from Thailand.