Premier Says He’ll Take Border Dispute to The Hague

In the midst of a Thai-Cambodian verbal spat that has dragged on for more than five days, Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday threatened to take the Preah Vihear border dispute directly to the International Court of Justice.

“Now Cambodia is putting out its stance to resolve this issue via the International Court of Justice in The Hague,” the prime minister said during a speech in Oddar Meanchey’s Anlong Veng district.

“If [you] want to completely solve this issue, you must get back to the International Court of Justice in The Hague again and if it is necessary, it must be sent to the Security Council of the United Nations,” he added, addressing Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

The ICJ ruled in 1962 that Preah Vihear temple belongs to Cambodia, a decision that is uncontested by Thailand. But both nations claim a 4.6-square-kilometer parcel of adjoining land.

Mr Abhisit yesterday rubisshed Mr Hun Sen’s suggestion, telling the English-language newspaper the Bangkok Post that he rejected any possibility of ICJ intercession in the dispute.

His spokesman, Panitan Wattanayagorn, expanded on this last night, saying that the case could not be taken to the ICJ without Thailand’s consent.

“We don’t think it likely without the agreement of both parties due to the restrictions and limitations of the law,” he said by telephone from Bangkok. “We insist that the dispute should be settled bilaterally using the mechanism that we already have with Cambodia, that is, the border committee.”

The matter is currently “being considered by our leader urgently,” he added.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said yesterday that the Thai leader was confused about the court’s jurisdiction.

“He should learn about jurisdiction in the case. We understand it but he missed it,” he said. “He doesn’t know what is involved with the jurisdiction and the court in this case. He just panicked and reacted back. He’s out of control.”

In general, both states must consent to the ICJ’s jurisdiction before the court can hear a case, Andrey Poskakukhin, an ICJ spokesman, said yesterday.

But the issue is complex, he added, and it is theoretically possible for a state to bring a dispute to court unilaterally, depending on what treaties and declarations it may have signed with the other party to the dispute.

This back-and-forth came one day after the premier delivered a speech full of fiery rhetoric aimed at Mr Abhisit, including a hail of personal insults.

The Thai government said the speech would impact future Thai-Cambodian relations.

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya told Thailand’s English-language newspaper The Nation yesterday that Mr Hun Sen’s recent tour of contentious border sites was a ploy to sow chaos in Thailand in advance of the Feb 26 verdict in the asset seizure case of former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Meanwhile, the Thai press has had a field day with Mr Hun Sen’s speech, parsing his words with gusto and no small amount of disapproval.

In an editorial published yesterday, The Nation heaped abuse on Mr Hun Sen, whose remarks the newspaper said were “bizarre” and “unprecedented in the annals of Asean history.” The newspaper even suggested that Mr Hun Sen be held legally accountable if Mr Abhisit fell victim to political violence.

The Bangkok Post published a calmer editorial yesterday, calling the comments “crude,” “vulgar” and “primitive.”

For its part, the Cambodian government has harshly criticized the Thai media for its coverage of Mr Hun Sen over the past few days, issuing several statements of clarification and calling the Post “perfidious.”


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