Good relations with Cambodia called crucial after world court verdict
The government and military have held back on making definitive comments on the Preah Vihear case, waiting to see what transpires from a meeting with the Cambodian side.
As villagers living along the border cheered and welcomed the restoration of peace after the International Court of Justice’s verdict, heavy discussion took place on Facebook. Some calculated the loss of land to Cambodia after the World Court’s verdict on the promontory of the Hindu temple. A few postings were about the 4.6-square-kilometre disputed area, which will be jointly developed by Thailand and Cambodia.
The court on Monday ruled that the vicinity of the Preah Vihear Temple in accordance with the Annex I map was under the sovereignty of Cambodia. The territory in question does not correspond to the disputed 4.6 square kilometres, and its exact dimensions remain unclear.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Deputy Defence Minister General Yuthasak Sasiprapha pleaded that Thai citizens first think about Thai-Cambodian relations rather than the disadvantages inherent in the verdict, while urging politicians not to use this for political gain.
The Thai-Cambodian joint committee will convene as soon as possible, Yingluck said after the Cabinet meeting yesterday. Fo-reign Minister Surapong Tovicha-kchaikul will hold talks with his Cambodian counterpart and when they are ready, the committee will meet. For now, soldiers are guarding their posts until the joint committee reaches an agreement.
Yingluck brushed aside the question of how long it would take to find out how much land Thailand would lose to Cambodia under the redefined promontory.
Regarding foreign media re-ports that Thailand had lost land to Cambodia, she said it was not a matter of win or lose, but this was a win-win ruling for both countries. “Two neighbours live together without a fight or violence. This should be what all want,” she said.
Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha said Thailand had not lost its land, as the “small area” that the court ruled on was not yet specified. He said that while all were free to comment on the verdict, people should be careful, with the knowledge that one bad word could provoke a war.
“Soldiers are fully deployed to the South and disaster relief ... We can’t afford another fight.”
Late on Monday, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong told reporters in The Hague: “We could say we both win the judgement. By asking the court to interpret the 1962 judgement, Cambodia has only one will – to settle the dispute with Thailand peacefully and to have Thailand stay as a good neighbour. We are close to each other, we cannot stay away,” he said.
Surapong and Yuthasak arrived in Bangkok from the Netherlands yesterday, while Virachai Plasai, Thai ambassador to The Hague, will return today. Led by Yingluck, all of them will testify before Parliament today and take questions from MPs and senators.
Saying the translation and in-terpretation of the verdict was under way, Surapong said it was important that all Thais had a single message, for the peace of both nations. He noted that this understanding would facilitate Thai-land’s stand at the joint committee meeting.
“These [efforts] are to allow both countries to move forward. We must preserve our relations with Cambodia, as our co-existence will be forever. People of both nations are happy with the verdict,” he said.
Professor Chaiwat Khamchoo of Chulalongkorn University’s faculty of political science urged that Thais to maintain unity and not drag the Preah Vihear issue into politics. He said the case went to the court again because it was politicised at home. The university on Friday will host a seminar on the ruling, with Ambassador Virachai as a speaker.