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temple dispute

Surapong takes lead in court case

Surapong

Surapong

Accused of going easy on Cambodia, minister now says he'll be in The Hague to look Hor Namhong squarely in the eye

Foreign Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul made an about-turn yesterday, saying he would lead the Thai legal team to a World Court hearing on the Thai-Cambodian border dispute in April.

Surapong said he wanted to look his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong in the eye, "in order to cause him to lose his concentration".

He expressed confidence in Thailand's chances of winning a favourable ruling, while cautioning that Thais should also be prepared for possible disappointment.

Surapong, who is also deputy prime minister, said he did not want any group of people to use this issue for its political advantage. He noted that the Thai-Cambodian conflict had been used successfully to oust a government in the past.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands, will listen to another round of testimony in April and expects to deliver its final verdict later this year. Cambodia is scheduled to present oral arguments to the ICJ judges on April 15 and 18, and Thailand on April 17 and 19.

Cambodia asked the ICJ for an interpretation of the scope and meaning of its 1962 verdict that the ancient Hindu Preah Vihear temple was located on Cambodian territory. Phnom Penh wants the court to explain who has sovereignty over the area surrounding the temple, which Thailand claims as its own.

Surapong said yesterday that he and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra had attempted unsuccessfully to persuade Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to withdraw the case.

The foreign minister also said he was preparing to sue people who had accused him of pursuing the case without sufficient vigour due to alleged vested interests in Cambodia.

Pheu Thai Party deputy spokesman Jirayu Huangsap yesterday also dismissed allegations that the ruling party had vested interests with the Cambodian government.

"The Pheu Thai Party and the government have no vested interests with Cambodia," the spokesman said.

He denied that the government was indifferent on the issue, as alleged by opposition politicians, adding that many Cabinet members had expressed concern about the territorial issue.

Meanwhile, opposition Democrat Party spokesman Chavanont Intarakomalyasut yesterday said the government's failure to protest when Cambodia unilaterally organised a Unesco World Heritage conference for later this year could affect Thailand's case at the World Court.

"It seems the Thai government intentionally allowed Cambodia to host the event," he said.

The Democrat spokesman said that if the meeting results in a complete listing of Preah Vihear as a World Heritage site, the ICJ might view Cambodia as the sole owner of the site, leading it to rule in the country's favour.


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