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ICJ schedules hearings over Cambodian, Thai disputed territory

ICJ schedules hearings over Cambodian, Thai disputed territory

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A Cambodian soldier rests at Preah Vihear temple during fighting in August in 2011. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

Public hearings have been scheduled by the International Court of Justice in the ongoing territorial dispute between Cambodia and Thailand over the Preah Vihear temple and its surrounding area.

The hearings at The Hague, in the Netherlands, will run from April 15 to 19 next year.

Both countries will be allocated three sessions to present their arguments on interpretation of the ICJ’s 1962 ruling that granted Cambodia ownership of the 11th-century temple, which perches dramatically atop a 525-metre cliff near the border.

Ownership of the temple has been a contentious issue between the countries for more than a century and a flashpoint in Thai politics.

After the 1962 ruling, territorial debate between Cambodia and Thailand turned to the 17-square-kilometre area sur­rounding the temple.

In 2008, after UNESCO listed the Hindu temple as a World Heritage site in Cambodia, tensions at the border between Thailand and Cambodia flared.

The following years were punctuated by a series of sometimes-deadly military skirmishes that caused permanent damage to the temple.

According to a press release issued by the ICJ on Thursday, Cambodia contends that its “sovereignty over the Temple is a direct and automatic consequence of its sovereignty over the territory on which the Temple is situated”, and as such, Thailand must withdraw all military and other personnel from the vicinity.

During public hearings in May last year on Cambodia’s request for urgent provisional measures, Thailand maintained there was no dispute over the scope of meaning of the 1962 judgment and that there was no dispute.

In July this year, coinciding with an anniversary celebration of the 1962 decision, 485 Cambodian soldiers and an undisclosed number of Thai troops were redeployed from the provisional demilitarised zone set up by the ICJ after fatal clashes that killed at least 10 and displaced thousands of families in 2011.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith told the Post yesterday the International Court of Justice had informed Cambodia about the hearing and the government had already prepared the requisite documents with the assistance of legal experts to debate the long-standing territorial sovereignty impasse.

“The most important thing is a legal, and internationally recognised, demarcation of the border,” he said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Cheang Sokha at [email protected]
Bridget Di Certo at [email protected]

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