Cambodian government officials yesterday flatly ruled out any suggestion of renegotiating the Preah Vihear Provisional Demilitarised Zone boundary as suggested by Thailand’s most senior military commander.
Thai Supreme Commander Thanasak Patimapakorn told the Nation newspaper over the weekend that Thailand would discuss with Cambodia the prospect of renegotiating the boundaries of the 17.3-square-kilometre PDZ established by the International Court of Justice in July.
“The world court has marked the demilitarised zone, but now that both countries have good relations, we think we can discuss the matter first,” he was quoted as saying.
“We don’t know who has set up the zone or who determines where the ABCD points are located. So if we can talk with Cambodia, we can live together peacefully,” Thanasak reportedly said.
Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said yesterday Cambodia remained committed to withdrawing troops from the PDZ in its current configuration to make way for Indonesian border observers, as prescribed by the ICJ ruling in July.
“We do not have any idea for an adjustment as has been raised by Thailand,” he said, adding that Thailand could take the suggestion to the ICJ if it pleased.
Koy Kuong said that if a pending ICJ ruling over the 4.6-square-kilometre dispu-ted area surrounding the 11th-century temple found in favour of Cambodia’s claim, development could proceed without Thailand.
“We cannot take a house, which is our own possession, and let other people jointly manage it,” he said.
Last April, Cambodia asked the ICJ to issue an interpretation of its 1962 decision that ruled in favour of Cambodia’s claim to the Preah Vihear temple following fierce clashes over the temple in February and April that left at least 28 people dead.
There has now been almost nine months of back-and-forth negotiations since the ICJ ordered both sides to “immediately” withdraw their forces from the PDZ in July in response to those clashes.
Defense Minister Tea Banh yesterday stressed that the “most important thing” now was to implement this decision.
“So far, we have not yet implemented the ICJ order, and we are pushing to implement it,” he said.
“The obstacle for us on the withdrawal of troops from the demilitarised zones is that we [Cambodia and Thailand] have not yet set an agreement on when to do it.”
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said Cambodia had not been pressing that hard for the withdrawal, perhaps acknowledging that relatively new Thai leader Yingluck Shinawatra faced internal resistance to such moves.
“I think perhaps it’s a reflection of the hard-line position on the part of the Thai army. I think politically, it’s okay with Cambodia, but I think the [Thai] military do not pull the Thai government line,” he said.
Yingluck Shinawatra’s older brother Thaksin, who was deposed as Thai prime minister in a 2006 military coup, has recently weighed in on the debate, suggesting Thailand would likely be defeated at the ICJ, a result that could fuel divisions in the politically unstable country.