‘Interpretation’ Of ICJ Temple Ruling Sought

Weekend fighting kills two more RCAF soldiers

While continued border fighting between Thai and Cambodian troops killed two more RCAF soldiers over the weekend, the For­eign Ministry on Thursday asked the International Court of Justice to “interpret” a 1962 decision on Preah Vihear temple.

Though the ruling unambiguously awarded the temple itself to Cambodia and accepted a colonial-era border line, land around the temple is claimed by Thailand. Four days of deadly fighting broke out in early February over a nearby 4.6-square-kilometer area that both countries say is sovereign territory.

In a statement released Friday, the ministry said it submitted the request because of Thailand’s “repeated armed aggression” against Cambodia and territorial claims based on maps with “no legal basis.”

“The Royal Government of Cam­bodia deems it to be of utmost necessity to have the interpretation of the ICJ’s 1962 judgment in order to peacefully and definitively settle the boundary problem between the two countries in the area of the temple of Preah Vihear,” it said.

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong traveled to the Netherlands to deliver the request in person.

“We ask [the ICJ] to clarify the 1962 ruling, to whom the 4.6 square km piece of land, which Thailand claims, belongs,” he told reporters upon his return on Saturday at Phnom Penh International Airport. “We will let the court interpret it.”

Mr Namhong said he also asked the World Court to take “immediate measures” to stop the most recent border fighting, which has been going on since April 22 about 150 km west of Preah Vihear temple.

Thailand and Cambodia accuse each other of starting the latest border clashes, which have killed more than a dozen soldiers and displaced tens of thousands of civilians on either side.

Thailand, which has insisted on settling the border dispute bilaterally, said Cambodia’s appeal to the ICJ would only make matters worse.

“Thailand regrets that Cambodia decided to completely disregard progress being made in various tracks,” the Thai Foreign Ministry said Friday, noting Indonesia’s mediation efforts, a meeting of the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Committee in March and a cease-fire negotiated Thursday.

The cease-fire was broken hours after the deal was reached, however, and neither Indonesia nor the JBC appear to have achieved much, if anything.

“It is clear that Cambodia will stop at nothing to achieve its specific political expediencies even though it would mean creating a conflict, disregarding the bilateral commitments already made and bypassing the ongoing efforts of the Asean family just days ahead of the Asean Summit,” the Thai Foreign Ministry statement said.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said last week he planned to raise the recent border fighting at the meeting, which begins Saturday in Jakarta.

Bangkok has already started preparing its defense at the World Court.

“The Thai Foreign Ministry is well prepared. Legal advisers have been hired to handle the case,” spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said, according to Thai news website MCOT.

In Oddar Meanchey province, meanwhile, border fighting continued for the ninth straight day Sunday around Ta Moan and Ta Krabei temples despite a pair of cease-fires negotiated late last week.

According to the Defense Ministry, Thai forces began firing on Cambodian positions at 8 pm on Saturday and followed up with artillery fire until 5 am yesterday.

Major General Siek Socheat, RCAF deputy commander of joint battlefield units, claimed Cambodia did not return fire even though the attack killed two RCAF soldiers and injured a third. At least eight RCAF soldiers have died since April 22.

The general said he had ordered his frontline commanders to contact their Thai counterparts to avoid more fighting, though no further cease-fire talks had been scheduled.

Liev Savy, an RCAF solider posted on the front near Ta Krabei temple, said the attacks have followed a regular pattern.

“The Thai military always starts shooting and shelling every night until dawn,” he said yesterday. “They continue doing it until dawn while we cannot see each other.”

Thai media reported that the fighting injured two Thai soldiers and involved only small-arms fire.


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