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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Preah Vihear hearings commence

Preah Vihear hearings commence

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A Cambodian soldier at Preah Vihear temple catches up on sleep during a lull in fighting with Thailand in February.

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong appeared before the International Court of Justice yesterday and asked the United Nations judicial body to order the withdrawal of Thai troops from areas around Preah Vihear temple during the first of two scheduled hearings in The Hague.

Hor Namhong’s demand follows deadly fighting along the Cambodian-Thai border in February near the 11th-century temple that left at least 10 soldiers dead and dozens injured on both sides.

“We will ask the court to swiftly provide the provisional measures to protect the peace and avoid an escalation of the armed conflict in the area,” Agence-France Presse quoted Hor Namhong as saying.

“Thailand is under obligation to withdraw any troops in the area around the temple,” he argued before a panel of 15 judges at the ICJ in the Netherlands.

The ICJ ruled in 1962 that sovereignty over Preah Vihear belongs to Cambodia. Although judgments are final and are not subject to appeal, states can ask for reinterpretations of previous decisions.

Cambodia has taken that route in petitioning the court to reinterpret its 1962 decision to bear on territory adjacent to the temple that is also claimed by Thailand.

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said the Thai delegation planned to argue that the court had no jurisdiction to rule on  the borders of states in dispute, the Bangkok Post reported.

An ICJ official said earlier this month that a final decision in the case could take years, though the court may rule on questions of troop placements and other interim measures within weeks.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong declined to comment, saying that Hor Namhong would continue arguments today.

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