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Cambodia ‘won’t rush’ Thais

Cambodia will not rush Thailand to begin negotiations over the implementation of the International Court of Justice’s November 11 judgment on land surrounding the Preah Vihear temple, Minister for Information Khieu Kanharith said yesterday.

Responding to journalists’ questions after a meeting with Chinese ambassador Bu Jianguo, Kanharith said the government wished to allow Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra some breathing space as she copes with domestic pressures.

Yingluck has faced massive anti-government street protests over the ICJ verdict, a controversial political amnesty bill and proposed changes to the Thai constitution.

“Now that we have won [at the ICJ], we don’t want the Thai extremists to use this issue to [further] pressure the government of Ms Yingluck,” Kanharith said yesterday.

“If she can deal with these matters, she might not suffer the same fate as her brother [ousted former Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra]. We won’t rush and put pressure on Thailand, because we know that we have already won the case.”

Last week’s ICJ judgment clarified Cambodia’s sovereignty over the entire promontory that the 11th-century temple sits on.

Both nations still need to agree on how to demarcate this “vicinity” area on the ground. Minus the promontory, the remainder of the 4.6-square-kilometre area is still in dispute and will also have to be resolved either bilaterally or through ASEAN mechanisms.

The Thai government has said it has yet to officially accept the ICJ ruling and will not withdraw until both sides meet.

Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Sek Wannamethee welcomed Kanharith’s words yesterday. “I think that it reflects exactly what our two foreign ministers announced on October 28,” he said.

“That first, Cambodia and Thailand have to go through internal processes, and we both understood [that] … on the Thai side, given the open democratic society, there would be various viewpoints on the outcome of the judgment. [Cambodian Foreign Minister] Hor Namhong said he completely understood this.”

Wannamethee added that a Thai government committee would convene today to “study and analyse the judgment”, while an official Thai translation of the verdict was still being approved.

Local political analysts, however, slammed the Cambodian government’s stance yesterday.

Dr Sok Touch, political scientist and the rector of Khemarak University, said all UN member states were obliged to abide by ICJ verdicts.

“This is a resolution dealing with integrity and sovereignty, so there is no need to give any time to Thailand to resolve its internal matters,” he said.

“If Thailand fails to respect [the verdict] … Cambodia has the right to use any means … to enforce the ICJ decision.

“Politicians should not be sentimental, whether for personal or family connections, with matters concerning the national interest.”

Prime Minister Hun Sen is close friends with Thaksin, who is widely believed to pull the strings behind his sister’s government from exile.

Political analyst Kem Ley said that although the vicinity border line would need to be established by the joint border commission, the Thai government had no reason to wait to withdraw troops from the temple area.

“The troops and all the border guards should withdraw completely, and they must respect the [judgment] … this is the voluntary will of the Thai government to do this,” he said.

“[The Thais] must solve internal conflicts by themselves…otherwise nobody would respect the ICJ or the UN.”

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