Cambodia’s statement to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the first day of a four-day hearing on the Preah Vihear tussle was not beyond expectation and Thailand can easily counter it, Foreign Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul declared.
“We are prepared and our team has all the right answers,” he told reporters after the hearing at the ICJ’s Peace Palace was completed yesterday.
The court opened the newly renovated Great Hall of Justice for the two conflicting countries to use for the first time since May 2012.
Cambodia pointed out in court yesterday that it had never accepted the “vicinity of Preah Vihear Temple” unilaterally claimed by Thailand as its own more than 50 years ago.
Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong accused Thailand of failing to comply with the court’s July 18, 2011, order to withdraw troops from the court-determined demilitarised zone at the disputed border area.
“Thailand does not know how to defend the case but is delaying the judgement,” he said.
The Cambodian counsel tried to convince the 17 judges that the application to the ICJ was merely a request for interpretation, not an appeal on the boundary issue as Thailand had told the court earlier.
The ICJ ruled in 1962 that the Hindu temple was situated in territory under the sovereignty of Cambodia and Thailand was obligated to withdraw its troops from the temple and its vicinity.
The Cambodian counsel told the court that Thailand had unilaterally delimited the temple’s vicinity by claiming 1 square kilometre of land around the temple. They said this was in contrary to the court’s judgement in 1962.
Over the past 50 years, Phnom Penh has from time to time expressed its disagreement with Thailand’s interpretation of the 1962 judgement, saying that the Kingdom was trying to establish a new boundary line.
Cambodian counsel Rodman Bundy said that even though Thailand claimed that late King Norodom Sihanouk accepted its new “boundary”, the Thai government at the time did not fully implement the 1962 judgement.
In 1967, Cambodia again protested against Thailand’s unilateral determination of Preah Vihear’s “vicinity”, Rodman Bundy told the court.
He went on to say that Thai governments, such as the one under former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006, had a different understanding of Preah Vihear’s vicinity than that of the Cabinet in 1962.
Cambodia proposed that the temple’s vicinity should be determined by the boundary line that appears in the 1:200,000-scale map created by the French government or the map referred to in Annex I of the original documents presented in court in 1962. According to this map, the court found the Preah Vihear Temple to be on Cambodia’s side.
Though the Thai legal counsel were also at the court yesterday, they only listed to the arguments made by the other side. Thai chief counsel Virachai Plasai and his team will take the floor tomorrow to argue against Cambodia’s position.
A group of senators including Khamnoon Sitthisaman and Rossana Tosittrakul appeared in the court before the hearing opened. They are urging the government not to accept the ICJ’s decision, as the court tended to rule in favour of Cambodia.