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Border 'fragile' ahead of ICJ ruling: minister

Border 'fragile' ahead of ICJ ruling: minister

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said yesterday that the situation along the Thai-Cambodian border near Preah Vihear temple remained “highly fragile” ahead of a pending decision on the issue from the United Nations’ International Court of Justice.

Representatives of Cambodia and Thailand appeared before the court this week after the Kingdom requested that the ICJ reinterpret its 1962 judgment awarding Preah Vihear temple to Cambodia. Cambodia wants the court to revisit that verdict and explain how it bears on the sovereignty of the surrounding territory.

Ahead of such a reinterpretation, which could take years, Cambodia has called for the court to order “interim measures” requiring Thailand  to withdraw its military forces from the area and implementing safeguards for the protection of the temple.

Speaking to reporters following his return from the ICJ in The Hague, Hor Namhong said yesterday that the court could decide on such measures within 40 to 45 days. In the meantime, he said, the situation near the temple remains precarious.

“We have always prepared 24 hours [per day] for all forms of incidents,” he said. “While we are waiting for the court to issue a decision on the urgent measures, we want to see Thailand show aggression against Cambodia to show the world and the court the ambition for war of Thailand.”

In February, clashes broke out near Preah Vihear that killed at least 10 people. Fighting near the temple also reignited briefly in April in the midst of hostilities roughly 150 kilometres away, along the border near Oddar Meanchey province.

“Thailand has shown aggression against Cambodia because Thailand did not obey the ICJ’s ruling of 1962,” Hor Namhong said.

The court has not given a date for its ruling on the provisional measures, saying only that such a decision will come “as soon as possible”. Cambodia and Thailand are still required to submit additional information to the court on the fighting in April to allow it to assess the urgency of the requested provisional measures.

Thani Thongphakdi, spokesman for the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said yesterday that a decision from the ICJ was irrelevant to preserving the peace along the border.

“I think the situation is fragile in the sense that it is up to Cambodia,” he said. “We have to stress that we did not initiate any of the recent clashes.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMES O’TOOLE

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