A Change of Guard

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Saturday, 30 April 2011

Thai-Cambodian border dispute heads to Hague as commanders meet again

The 11th century Preah Vihear temple stands in Preah Vihear province, Cambodia, about 152 miles north of Phnom Penh. Cambodian and Thai troops resumed an artillery duel along their disputed border on Feb. 5, damaging the Hindu temple.
Heng Sinith/AP/File

Deadly skirmishes overnight on the Thai-Cambodian border broke a tentative cease-fire, but army commanders are holding talks again today as Cambodia simultaneously took the case to The Hague.

By Simon Montlake,
Christian Science Monitor Correspondent
April 29, 2011
Bangkok, Thailand

As army commanders held talks today on the Thai-Cambodian border after six days of clashes that have left 16 dead in the worst fighting in nearly three years, Cambodian officials simultaneously opened a new diplomatic front in the battle for an 11th century Khmer temple.

Cambodia's government said Friday it has asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to clarify its 1962 ruling that awarded the temple to Cambodia, a request prompted by Thailand’s “repeated armed aggression to exert its claim to Cambodia’s territory."

Hundreds of troops from both nations have been camped out around the temple for years. After repeated deadly skirmishes and with United Nations and regional mediators repeatedly stifled in their attempts to negotiate a permanent cease-fire, Cambodia's bid to take the case back to The Hague after 50 years injects a new note of uncertainty into the border crisis.

IN PICTURES: Preah Vihear temple battle

Deadly gunfights early Friday broke a tentative truce agreed on late Thursday, with each side blaming the other for firing first. Thai military spokesman Col. Samsern Kaewkamnerd said the overnight exchanges of artillery and small arms fire killed one Thai soldier and injured four others, but he downplayed it as “sporadic clashes."

Thani Thongpakdee, a spokesman for Thailand’s Foreign Ministry, said Cambodia had instigated the latest fighting in order to “lay the ground for their decision to submit their request [to the ICJ].” He told a press conference Friday that Thailand had already anticipated this strategy and was preparing its legal defense.

Perched on a tall cliff, Preah Vihear is a contemporary of Angkor Wat, the renowned Cambodian temple that appears on the Cambodian national flag and has become a major tourist attraction.

Fighting also erupted this week around two other ancient temples, though analysts say the border dispute seems driven as much by domestic politics as strategic interests.

In recent days, politicians in both countries have toned down nationalist rhetoric, allowing local military commanders to pursue a cease-fire. The US and other allies have urged an end to the fighting and a resumption of negotiations. Thailand’s Army chief is in Beijing and is expected to brief his Chinese counterparts on the situation during the prearranged visit, say Thai officials.

Thai officials said the two countries’ foreign ministers would meet next week on the sidelines of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit held in Indonesia’s capital Jakarta.

Indonesia, as the current ASEAN chair, has tried to facilitate talks between the warring parties and to send military observers to the border. But Thailand has dragged its feet on allowing Indonesian observers into the disputed area, to the frustration of Cambodia, which has appealed to the UN to intervene in the conflict.

Thai government officials argue that bilateral talks are the best way to end the fighting. “We hope that Cambodia will return to the negotiating table,” said government spokesman Panitan Wattanyagorn.

Opposition politicians have accused Thailand’s powerful military of stirring trouble on the border as a pretext to crack down on dissent at home. Military chiefs have denied rumors of a coup to derail elections due by July.

Mr. Panitan insisted that civilian officials were in charge of border affairs. “The government has set guidelines for the military to follow,” he said.


Anonymous said...

Thief has never brought its benefactor to court. Only benefactor has the will to bring a crook to court to be judge. The thief thinks that it can be above the rules of law.

Anonymous said...

The ruling is crystal clear the whole Thailand no body can understand English or intentional to steal the neighbor land when come to invading Cambodia look like the whole Thailand is crystal clear and very united it or Thailand is the country without morality .
Thailand never respect the ruling of ICJ more fighting will follow unless Cambodia have the military power to knock Thailand down or have the other deterrence that scare the the hell Thailand out .

Anonymous said...

I think this is one of the best option Cambodia has. To avoid further conflict and loss of life, both Cambodia and Thailand has to resolve this issue peacefully. Negotiations did not work, so going back to ICJ is the best option.

Anonymous said...

The judgement is final Khmer is to sum up make baloney Thai understand in details "According to the annex map Preah Vihear temple is under sovereignty of Cambodia " that is judgement of ICJ , According to annex map it mean annex map is the legal binding map the borderline of the map is legal but doubt if Thai will turn up or if they turn up they will not respect it anyway they only respect big rocket .