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Thailand agrees to withdraw its troops

Cambodian and Thai military officials discuss the execution of the ICJ’s verdict on Preah Vihear
Cambodian and Thai military officials discuss the execution of the ICJ’s verdict on Preah Vihear during a meeting on the Thai-Cambodia border yesterday. Heng Chivoan

Thailand agrees to withdraw its troops

Cambodian and Thai military officials met yesterday morning to discuss the implementation of the International Court of Justice’s ruling on Preah Vihear, with both sides pledging to keep the peace and the Thais agreeing to withdraw to the new line of demarcation.

Monday’s judgment declared that Cambodia had sovereignty over the promontory of Preah Vihear and that Thailand was obliged to withdraw all its forces stationed in the area – which the court clarified was the “vicinity” of the temple.

In a meeting held yesterday, Cambodian General Srey Doek and his Thai counterpart, General Tarakorn Thammavinton, said the ICJ’s decision would be implemented in due course, but agreed that further consultation would be necessary to determine the exact line of demarcation and to establish a timeline for the withdrawal.

“The Thai side will withdraw the troops as the ICJ ruled by following government policy, and we have to take time to follow the border committee,” Tarakorn said, referring to the Cambodia-Thai Border Committee. “The Thai side guarantees to Cambodia that it will not allow a clash to happen, and that there weren’t any Thai people who protested near the border.”

Neither side yesterday could say how far the Thais would have to pull back from current lines.

“Both sides respect the ICJ ruling, but finding a resolution requires the two governments and the border committee to do it,” Doek, the Cambodian general in charge of Preah Vihear, said. “I believe that the Thai prime minister has already talked with Prime Minister Hun Sen to find a resolution.”

According to Monday’s verdict, the promontory extends in the northwest to the foot of a neighbouring hill known as Phnom Trap, which sits about 2.5 kilometres away from the temple according to the colonial-era Annex I map that forms the basis of Cambodia’s border claim.

Although the ruling clarified that the northern limit of the promontory was the border line of this map, which sits some 500 metres north of the temple, it made clear the dispute only concerned the promontory and declined to rule on the boundary line between Cambodia and Thailand.

It is unknown how many Thai forces remain north of the temple or in the valley leading to Phnom Trap.

The ICJ ruling suggests, however, that an area near the temple that was previously considered a sort of no man’s land – where five soldiers from each side kept watch together – would now belong to Cambodia.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said yesterday that he was not aware of any set timeline for negotiations.

“We can use [a number] of existing mechanisms related to the border. We will put our differences aside and meet so not to jeopardise the peace of the area,” he said.

Siphan added that it was too early to put a number on how much territory the ICJ had clarified was Cambodia’s, but stressed the dispute was over the interpretation of the border line, and not over territory.

“The Thais have presented their own map which creates this [famous] 4.6-kilometre area … This dispute is not about that 4.6-kilometre area but about interpreting where the border line is. That’s why the ICJ never said anything about the 4.6 kilometres.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KEVIN PONNIAH

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