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Thailand Readies for Preah Vihear Temple Hearing



Aerial view of Preah Vihear temple which is in dispute between Thailand and Cambodia


CHIANGRAI TIMES – The Thai government is counting on international law experts to win the day at court hearings over the Preah Vihear dispute with Cambodia. The decision to hire international lawyers followed Cambodia’s completion of an access road  and steps to the mountain-top Preah Vihear Temple.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said the government was seeking advice and correct information from experts to protect sovereignty.

However, she refused to reveal details claiming it could prejudice legal proceedings.

Late last week, the PM together with deputy prime minister Gen Yutthasak Sasiprapa, military top brass, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ officials met with legal teams to discuss ways to present Thailand’s at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) hearings.

The Thai-commissioned legal teams include the Thai ambassador to the Hague, Virachai Plasai, head lawyer of the case team, and three foreign lawyers from France, Canada and Australia.

In April 2011, Cambodia asked the ICJ to clarify and interpret its 1962 ruling on Preah Vihear.

In 1962, the court ruled that the ancient Hindu temple belonged to Cambodia, but did not define the boundaries of the area surrounding the structure, which has led to sporadic clashes between troops.

The ICJ has asked Thailand to summit further written explanations by 21 June this year, as Cambodia has reportedly already sent its written explanations to the court, which set a deadline for Cambodia on 8 March.

The PM said the team of lawyers would work together with related committees, affirming the government would do its best  to fight the case.

Regarding the dispute over 4.6 sq km area around the Preah Vihear Temple, Ms Yingluck said the government will safeguard national interests.

Preah Vihear Temple is situated on a ridge that marks the border of Thailand and Cambodia. The temple falls under Cambodian jurisdiction, but access is more convenient from the Thai side in Kantharalak district, Si Sa Ket, province in the lower Northeast region. The temple is 110 km from Si Sa Ket province and about 140 km north of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat.

However, access has improved from the Cambodian side and the intention was to open it for visitors on heritage tours starting at Siem Reap’s Angkor Wat.

Few if any tour groups have travelled from the Thai side over the last three years.

by Wanwisa Ngamsangchaikit

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