Aerial view of Preah Vihear temple.Cambodia has asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to clarify its 1962 ruling over the Hindu temple of Preah Vihear as its military clashes with Thailand continued after a truce.
"The submission of this request has been prompted by Thailand's repeated armed aggression to exert its claims to Cambodian territory, on the basis of its own unilateral map that has no legal basis," said a Cambodian foreign ministry statement issued yesterday (April 29).
The ICJ ruled in 1962 that "the temple of Preah Vihear is situated in territory under sovereignty of Cambodia", but Bangkok argues that the court ruled only that the sandstone ruin belongs to Cambodia while the areas surrounding the Hindu temple belong to Thailand.
The court based its judgement on a French-made 1:200,000-scale map that indicated the boundary line between Siam, as Thailand was then known, and French Indochina.
Thailand argued that the boundary line should follow the watershed of the Phnom Dangrek Mountains in accordance with the 1904 and 1907 Franco-Siamese treaties. The disputed territory is a 4.6-square-kilometre area surrounding Preah Vihear.
Phnom Penh exercised its rights in accordance with Article 60 of the ICJ Statute, which says: "The judgement is final and without appeal. In the event of dispute as to the meaning or scope of the judgement, the Court shall construe it upon the request of any party."
There have been many armed skirmishes in the border area since Cambodia managed to get Preah Vihear listed as a World Heritage Site in 2008, against Thailand's wishes. Bangkok feared Cambodia would turn the disputed areas adjacent to the temple into a buffer zone for management of the property.
Phnom Penh considers the request for ICJ clarification a preventive measure to avoid further armed conflict between the two countries, to stop loss of lives and to preserve the Hindu temple from serious damage.
THai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said his government had anticipated that Cambodia would request an ICJ clarification and that Thailand had organised a legal team to fight in court.
"We don't have a disadvantage in fighting in the world court. We are well prepared in terms of legal aspects and facts," Abhisit said.
The border conflict between the two countries has extended to other areas including near Ta Muan Thom and Ta Kwai temples in Surin province, about 150 kilometres west of Preah Vihear, since last week. The fighting has continued despite military commanders in the area reaching a ceasefire deal on Thursday.
The fresh clash after the truce killed a Thai military ranger and injured five others. Both sides blamed each other for firing first.
Thai Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha said the clash took place because Cambodian soldiers threw grenades at the Thai side and Thai troops fired small arms to retaliate.
However, Prayuth said he remained hopeful of achieving peace with Cambodia, saying the latest clash might be caused simply by undisciplined soldiers who did not obey their commanders' instructions to cease fire.
A Cambodian commander accused Thai soldiers of firing first. "They began firing artillery shells at our troops at Ta Krabei (Ta Kwai) temple at 4:50am," Suos Sothea, deputy commander of the artillery unit, told Xinhua news agency by telephone from the battlefield yesterday.
"Thai troops may not respect their superiors because on Thursday, their military commander met with our commander and reached a ceasefire, but this morning they still shell us.
"However, we did not fight back, as we are complying with the ceasefire," he said.
By Supalak Ganhanakhundee
The Nation (Thailand), 30th April, 2011