Prime Minister Hun Sen praised the Cambodian legal teams and foreign lawyers who argued the Preah Vihear temple territory case at the International Court of Justice in The Hague last week, and urged calm from both countries in the wake of the hearing.
“I contacted Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and said it doesn’t matter what the court’s decision will be, Cambodia and Thailand will not become enemies to each other because Cambodia and Thailand are like tongue and teeth. They cannot be removed from each other,” he said.
Speaking to several hundred villagers during a Buddhist ceremony at Serey Udom pagoda in Prey Veng district, the premier said that the four-day hearings boiled down to two main points: Cambodia wanted the court to clarify its 1962 decision to deal with the undefined and disputed territory around the temple, which the ICJ gave to Cambodia in the original ruling, while Thailand insisted the court stay away from any reinterpretation.
Cambodia and Thailand are contesting 4.6-square kilometers of land along the border next to the temple, a contentious piece of territory that has seen fatal clashes since 2008. The ICJ is expected to rule later this year.
Hun Sen predicted that the ICJ would indeed reinterpret the 1962 ruling – instead of dismissing the case – because the court would have to make a decision on the provisional demilitarised zone it ordered created in 2011.
Additionally, he said, an ICJ judge has asked both countries to submit maps outlining their definition of the “vicinity” of the temple, a hint that the court may focus on settling competing claims.
According to Hun Sen, a written reply from both sides is due Friday, while the parties will have to submit responses to one another’s definitions by May 3.
After his arrival at Phnom Penh International Airport yesterday, Minister of Foreign Affair Hor Namhong, who led the Cambodian delegation to The Hague, said he talked with his Thai counterpart, Surapong Tovichakchaikul, and the two agreed to comply with the verdict.
The calm for which both countries have appealed, however, could be disturbed by an awkwardly timed and placed World Heritage Committee meeting in June in Phnom Penh, where the subject of managing the Preah Vihear temple may well come up. The cross-border clashes in 2008 occurred after the temple was listed as a World Heritage site.
Supporters also welcomed home members of the Thai legal team on Sunday. According to the Bangkok Post, the group was met with flowers and banners thanking them for their work.
“I have done my best,” Thailand’s ambassador to The Hague, Virachai Plasai Virachai, said upon arriving.