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First step taken to comply with ICJ order: Defence Minister

Thailand and Cambodia are continuing with their tasks and obligations to complete the process of troop withdrawal from the Preah Vihear Temple area in accordance with the International Court of Justice (ICJ)'s order, Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat said yesterday.

Troop adjustment and redeployment on Wednesday was merely the first step, he said. The court ordered the two countries to withdraw their troops from the demilitarised zone of 17.3 square kilometres near the Hindu temple in July 18 last year.

Twelve months later, the two countries have just begun to comply with the injunction, pulling out military personnel and replacing them in the border disputed areas with hundreds of police and civilian security guards.

Provisional measures issued by the ICJ also prohibited military activities in the areas and ordered Thailand to refrain from blocking access to Preah Vihear. The ICJ asked both sides to continue cooperating with Asean, in particular in allowing an Indonesian observer team into the court-determined zone.

However, acceding to the observer team order has not yet been enforced due to Thailand's complex legal procedures. The Foreign Ministry will propose that the Cabinet submits a term of reference for the observers for Parliament's approval in accordance with Article 190 of the Constitution next month.

Both countries need to sit together in a joint working group to discuss the next steps in complying with the ICJ's order, Sukumpol said.


The working group had agreed in its previous meeting to clear landmines from the disputed areas within 30 days before the troop withdrawal, he said.

The minister said he wanted to see the next round of the working group meeting soon as there were many issues to discuss. Thailand and Cambodia have been at loggerheads over the Preah Vihear Temple since the last century.

The ICJ ruled in 1962 that the temple was situated in territory under the sovereignty of Cambodia but Thailand argued its vicinity belonged to Thailand. The overlapping area claimed by both countries is 4.6 square kilometres. Cambodia asked the court to interpret the scope and meaning of the 1962 ruling and take provisional measures to prohibit Thailand's military movement in the area.

Asked what Thailand could do about Cambodia placing civilian families in the disputed areas adjacent to the temple, Sukumpol said his government would negotiate with the Cambodians about complying with a memorandum of understanding signed in 2000.

"We cannot use force to solve the problem, and should look at this issue with longer vision. We cannot [study] the problem only at this spot," Sukumpol said.

Opposition Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said the government should protest the presence of Cambodian civilians in the disputed area which he deemed Thai territory. Abhisit was prime minister of the previous government which had bitter relations with Cambodia over the Preah Vihear while in power.


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