Thailand’s legal team for the Preah Vihear case will this week concentrate on the question raised by Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf after the hearing session about the ‘vicinity’ of the temple. The question was simple but the answer is complicated, officials in the team said yesterday.
Thailand and Cambodia have an obligation to answer Judge Yusuf’s question by Friday and each team can respond to their opponent’s definition by May 3.
Observers and some members of the Thai team said the question reflected the Somali judge’s attitude to the case. Yusuf told Foreign Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul in person on Wednesday that the question was raised from his personal interest but when he received the answer, he would circulate it to other members of the court.
A member of the Thai team said the action should not be underestimated as many judges might be looking for the same answer. If the judges were considering the vicinity of the temple, which is the core issue of the case, it could imply that the court would exercise its jurisdiction to interpret the 1962 judgement as requested by Cambodia. In consequence, one of Thai arguments about the court’s jurisdiction would be dismissed.
Cambodia’s Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told reporters after the court session in The Hague that Cambodia would simply define the vicinity in accordance with the line appearing in the Annex I map of 1:200,000 scale.
“If we want to know about the vicinity of the temple, (the Preah Vihear) vicinity is clearly defined by the map Annex I,” he said.
Cambodia’s counsel, Rodman Bundy, said in his conclusion to the hearing in direct response to Judge Yusuf’s question, that the vicinity of Preah Vihear Temple was the area lying south of the Annex I map line, up to the intersection to the east and west of the temple which Thailand claims as the watershed line.
The intersection of lines in the maps created an “overlapping” area of 4.6 square kilometres west of the temple claimed by both sides.
Thailand claimed the watershed line was not accepted by the court in 1962. But in the original case it could be viewed as the area of overlapping claims, Bundy said. “That is what we suggest is meant by the vicinity in paragraph 2 of the dispositif (operative clause of the judgement),” he said.
Thailand, during the pleading, told the court that the temple’s vicinity, from where Thailand withdrew its troops in accordance with paragraph 2 of the judgement, was made by a Thai Cabinet resolution in 1962.
Thailand’s legal team demonstrated to the court that the Thai Cabinet then drew the line to put 4.6 square km as the vicinity of the temple – and claimed that the area was made in accordance with the area Cambodia determined as being shown in the Annex 85d map.
Cambodia’s counsel Bundy argued that the Thai Cabinet’s resolution was not based on any reasoning, whether the Annex 85d map, or the watershed line.
However Thailand’s counsel, Virachai Plasai, in his concluding remarks, told the court that the vicinity in accordance with the 1962 judgement was not as large as Cambodia wanted to claim.
During the hearing at the world court, Thailand suggested the area in question in the original case was only 0.35 square kilometres, not 4.6 square kilometres as defined by the overlapping boundary claims.
In complying with the 1962 judgement, Thailand had 0.28 square km for the temple’s seat and suggested it also included the so-called vicinity of the temple.
Officials on the Thai legal team needed to discuss the matter this week before submitting a written reply to the court about the status of the remaining 0.07 square km, or 43.75 rai northeast of Preah Vihear, on whether it should be included in the “vicinity” of the temple.