Preah Vihear Controversy
FM expresses concern over ICJ verdict
Foreign Minister Surapong Tohvichakchaikul on Wednesday expressed deep concern about the verdict of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) concerning the Thai-Cambodian dispute over the Preah Viharn temple, saying that were it not in favour of the Thai side, it could lead to undesirable action by Thai people.
"Every country has to accept the ICJ's decision. Refusal to accept it may put Thailand in a difficult position in the world arena. It is necessary to explain to the Thai people what the previous government did that led Cambodia to bring the dispute to the ICJ," Surapong said.
It is unclear why the Foreign Minister has chosen to mention the controversy now. Both the Thai and Cambodian governments will be giving their final verbal statements to the court between April 15-19, and the ICJ, which is also known as World Court, will take at least six months before pronouncing its verdict.
Surapong said the government's consultant team on international law is in the process of preparing Thailand's preliminary stance, which will be submitted to the cabinet for approval before being given as an official statement at the ICJ hearings in April.
A team of legal experts, which includes members of the Council of State, is scheduled to discuss details of the final statement next month. The legal team is led by Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Phongthep Thepkanjana.
Surapong said he would join next month's meeting of legal experts to acknowledge the final statement but will not join the Thai team appearing before the ICJ in April.
The Court earlier ordered Thailand and Cambodia to withdraw their military personnel from the Provisional Demilitarised Zone (PDZ) surrounding Preah Viharn temple and allow Asean observers to access the zone to monitor the ceasefire.
Surapong said the Thai-Cambodian Joint Working Group met for the third time from December 17-19, complying with the Court's order, and agreed to determine four areas in the demilitarised zone to get ready for demining them by the end of March.
He said the foreign ministry would continuously inform the Thai people on the conflict this year while officials from the Treaties and Legal Affairs Department would explain the issue to provincial governors nationwide so that they also relay the facts to the people.
"When both countries become part of the Asean Economic Community, the borderline is almost meaningless. There should not be clashes on the border as the two countries are neighbours," he said.
Expressing his grave concern on the outcome of the dispute, Surapong said, "We have to accept the decision. Some people will not understand it though."
The conflict, which has seen fighting on the border between Thailand and Cambodia, erupted shortly after the Unesco approved Cambodia’s bid to have the Preah Viharn temple named a World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008.