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All quiet on the western front

Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong (right) and his Thai counterpart, Surapong Tovichakchaikul (centre), agreed during a meeting in Banteay Meanchey
Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong (right) and his Thai counterpart, Surapong Tovichakchaikul (centre), agreed during a meeting in Banteay Meanchey province yesterday that the upcoming ICJ verdict in the Preah Vihear temple dispute would not jeopardise the two nations’ relations. STINGER

All quiet on the western front

Eyeing the benefits of stability to tourism and economic growth, the foreign ministers of Cambodia and Thailand emerged from a meeting at the border yesterday with another commitment to peacefully accept a ruling on the Preah Vihear temple.

At a joint press conference in Poipet province, Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong and his Thai counterpart, Surapong Tovichakchaikul, called for forces and officials on both sides to accept the International Court of Justice’s decision on the temple, due to be delivered on November 11.

“I think that after the court rules, we will not only maintain peace but will build confidence among the armies, people and local authorities of the two countries,” Namhong said. “There will be more exchanges of economics, trade and tourism, and we will improve all facets of [bilateral] cooperation.”

Both ministers said that whichever way the court ruled, normal relations between the two countries would continue on their current path.

“The two countries have to use the existing mechanisms and the existing laws of each country, and we will not allow that to change before or after the court’s ruling,” Surapong said. “We will continue to live [peacefully] forever.”

The foreign ministers’ comments came only days after Prime Minister Hun Sen urged troops stationed along the border to stay calm when the ICJ hands down its verdict.

“Whether it [the decision] goes to the interests of the Kingdom of Cambodia or Thailand, both governments cling to friendship and good cooperation,” he said in a statement of Friday.

The ICJ announced the November 11 date earlier this month, just days after Thailand’s foreign minister had told press in Bangkok that a verdict would not be delivered until February.

Cambodian troops and police in the area were told earlier this month to prepare themselves to work on the day of the announcement and that taking time off was not an option.

Tensions over which country owns a 4.6-square-kilometre area surrounding the Preah Vihear temple erupted in 2008 after UNESCO listed the 11th-century Hindu ruin as a World Heritage Site.

Violent clashes over the disputed territory left at least 18 dead and thousands displaced along the border in 2011, the same year Cambodia asked the ICJ to reinterpret a 1962 ruling on the issue.

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