Thailand to query the word 'vicinity' at ICJ

Pradit Ruangdit, Thanida Tansubhapol & Manop Thip-Osod
Bangkok Post

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva indicated yesterday he had no intention of holding talks on the border clashes with Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen at the Asean Summit in Indonesia.

"Don't forget that I met Hun Sen four times late last year, and then in February clashes erupted," Mr Abhisit said.

"And I insist that each clash is not an accident. It is an intention to internationalise the issue."

The clashes are part of Cambodia's strategy in dealing with territorial disputes, according to the premier.

He also doubted Cambodia's claim that the fighting continued because in part it could not control its troops.

Mr Abhisit said Thailand was making preparations to face Cambodia at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which has asked Thailand and Cambodia to give statements on May 30-31.

Cambodia has asked the court to interpret its 1962 verdict on the Preah Vihear temple and issue an urgent ruling, including an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Thai troops from the land surrounding the temple and a ban on Thai military activity in the area.

In the 1962 verdict, the court said: "Thailand is under an obligation to withdraw any military or police forces, or other guards or keepers, stationed by her at the temple, or in its vicinity on Cambodian territory."

Cambodia wants the ICJ to interpret the term "vicinity" mentioned in the ruling.

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said the Thai team to the ICJ will be led by Thai ambassador to the Hague, Virachai Plasai.

It will comprise three lawyers from France, Canada and Australia, chief of Treaties and Legal Affairs Department Ittiporn Boonpracong, and legal officials who will act as secretaries.

"The special legal committee will go to the Hague a few days before the court hearing to meet the three foreign advisers and prepare a statement for Mr Virachai to deliver to the court.

"They will have only three or four hours to clarify the Cambodian complaints with the 15 ICJ committees," Mr Kasit said.

After the hearing, Bangkok and Phnom Penh will have at least four or five months to send written statements to the ICJ.

"We think the court will make a decision after the New Year as at least five of 15 ICJ committees' terms will end and there will be changes in their members," Mr Kasit said.

Meanwhile, the House committee on foreign affairs yesterday voiced an objection to the government's plan to face Cambodia in the ICJ.

Pheu Thai MP Torpong Chaiyasarn, head of the committee, said the government should instead opt for negotiations to resolve the dispute or let a new administration handle the issue.

Mr Kasit hit back at Mr Torpong for making the suggestion.

"The suggestion is misleading because the public may think the government has done something wrong, and, therefore, has to go to the ICJ. The committee should not talk about this issue to the media directly.

"If it has any questions, it should ask the government for clarifications first," Mr Kasit said.

In a statement issued today, the Press and Quick Reaction Unit of the Office of the Council of Ministers accused Thailand of threatening peace and stability in the region with its war-like stance, and damaging Preah Vihear.

"For that reason, all neighbouring countries together with the international community should make joint efforts to put an end to this dangerous policy so that we can enjoy a lasting peace and stability in Southeast Asia," it said.

"Thai leaders should know that the world of the 21st century needs a new vision, a vision of peace rooted in justice, a vision of a world bound together in intentional community dedicated to the well-being of all people.

"Peace rooted in justice requires the nurturing of a culture of peace in homes, communities, nations and across the world," the statement said.


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