I write this in an attempt to strongly appeal to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to decide on the re-interpretation of its June 15, 1962, judgment on the Preah Vihear temple.
If a judicial approach were to be adopted, politicians, especially on the Thai side, and other vested interests would have no excuse to use this issue for political gain. Both countries could then contemplate a “no further armed conflict” agreement in the vicinity of the temple.
Although the 1962 judgment clearly affirmed Cambodia’s ownership of the Preah Vihear temple and its vicinity, as shown in the Annex I map line, both countries have accused each other of adopting a different interpretation of it.
As a result, sporadic armed clashes have broken out near the temple since 2008, claiming many military and civilian lives on both sides.
Faced with these challenges, Cambodia decided to request the ICJ’s re-interpretation of the judgment.
The issue has once again captured international attention, with the Thai and Cambodian sides having the opportunity to make their oral presentations in mid-April and written statements to support their legal arguments at the ICJ, rather than by military means.
It’s good practice that the judicial mechanism is being used to solve the disagreement. And it’s imperative that both sides comply with the ICJ’s re-interpretation of the judgment rather than making threats, provoking armed skirmishes along the border or using Thailand’s internal strife to exert some sort of psychological pressure on the ICJ.
Because Cambodia has experienced decades of civil war and, worse, the Khmer Rouge regime’s mass atrocities between 1975 and 1979, it would prefer a peaceful solution. But that doesn’t mean Cambodia would be easily bullied by its neighbour’s use of armed force.
It’s my hope that the honourable judges at the ICJ will make a decision based on the existing judgment (Annex I map) and will not feel pressured by the possible threat of armed clashes, Thailand’s internal unrest or biased academic viewpoints on the Thai side.
The appeal stems from four decisive factors. First, the re-interpretation of the ICJ’s judgment should be the last single approach towards depoliticising the Preah Vihear issue.
Second, it will help end inter-state and intra-state conflict because politicians will no longer be able to use it as an excuse to fan the fires of irrational nationalism and ultra-nationalism.
Third, Thai and Cambodian people will be clear through the re-interpretation of the 1962 judgment, although controversies may still arise in the immediate aftermath of the ICJ’s ruling.
And, fourth, the people of both countries will ultimately enjoy the fruits of development that make their living better.
Coventry University, UK