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Thai Gov’t Calls for Restraint Over World Court Verdict of Preah Vihear Temple



Graphic on the Preah Vihear temple on the border between Thailand and Cambodia.


BANGKOK –  The Thai government has repeatedly called on the public to be patient about the World Court verdict on the Preah Vihear temple dispute, saying that it didn’t “lose the battle” to Cambodia as opposition claimed.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said Friday that the opposition attempts to play up the temple judgment to further fan the flames of anti-government movement sparked by an amnesty bill.

She said the negative sentiments over the border issue and ensuing political tension would make it more difficult for the government to deal with it and may strain country’s relations with neighboring Cambodia.

“To avoid confusion, please listen to the government’s clarification. A technical committee will be set up to study the ICJ’s verdict and explain it to the public,” Yingluck was quoted by the Thai News Agency as saying.

The committee comprises officials from agencies including the Thai military and the Royal Thai Survey Department, which oversees maps and discusses boundary definition with neighboring countries.

The Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) judged unanimously on Monday that Cambodian has sovereignty over the plateau which locates the Preah Vihear temple as earlier ruled in 1962, but it was not given full control over all the disputed territory surrounding the ancient Hindu temple.

The verdict was delivered in response to a petition lodged by Cambodia in 2011 to clarify the 1962 judgment, which leaves space for both countries to claim ownership of a 4.6 square-kilometer region adjacent to the temple.

In a televised address to the public, Yingluck said she was ” satisfied” with the verdict, which was “beneficial” to the Thai side. “Thailand will enter negotiations with Cambodia to put an end to the issue,” said the premier.

However, oppositions and conservative figures have been pushing the government to concede defeat in the chronic border row, asserting that the court judgment has resulted in loss of Thai territory.

They urge the public not to be hoodwinked by the government.

Opposition Democrat MP Sirichok Sopha estimated that Thailand could lose 0.3-2 square-kilometer of area adjacent to the Preah Vihear temple to Cambodia as a result of the court ruling.

Sihasak Phuangketkeow, permanent secretary of Ministry of Forieng Affairs of Thailand, told reporters that the Thai authorities don’t see the ruling by the U.N. high court as a “win or lose” situation, instead it will be used as a basis for the two sides to further consult and reach a mutually satisfactory solution.

Thailand and Cambodia have different understandings when it comes to the vicinity of the temple, he said.

“The original intention of Cambodia when they founded the case was to claim that the vicinity which they say is under dispute, and they say the vicinity is an area that covers 4.6 square- kilometer based on the annex 1 map that they submitted. On this point, the court decided that the vicinity is not 4.6 as claimed by Cambodia,” said Sihasak.

“Instead, the court gave a general description of what it sees to be the vicinity based on the promontory, or the terrain of that area. So it remains with Thailand and Cambodia to consult on where that exact line is on the ground,” he added.

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