Pre-emptive steps ahead of ICJ ruling

Pre-emptive steps ahead of ICJ ruling
A Cambodian soldier smokes a cigarette at the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple on the border between Thailand and Cambodia.

Cambodian, other embassies to be protected; border officials on alert

The government will step up measures to prevent undesirable incidents occurring in the lead-up to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivering its ruling on land around Preah Vihear temple, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Foreign Ministry Nuttavudh Photisaro said yesterday.

Thailand and Cambodia have been at loggerheads over the old Hindu temple for a long time. And the court's judgement to interpret the 1962 verdict could stir strong sentiment among people on either side of the border.

"People on both sides might interpret the judgement differently and thus argument could spark anger among them," Nattavudh told The Nation, "Whatever the court's judgement is, we want to maintain good relations and have people live together peacefully."

The planned measures include deployment of security officials to keep law and order at embassies for all countries linked to the case, including Cambodia and states of all 17 judges on the ICJ, he said.

Local authorities and residents along the border would be informed for better understanding about relations between the two countries, he said.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra earlier endorsed the plan for a special joint commission with Cambodia co-chaired by Foreign Minster Surapong Tovichakchaikul and his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong to maintain orderly between the two countries.

Cambodia will have similar measures to prevent trouble during and after the verdict is read, Nattavudh said. He noted that the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh also should be fully protected.

In order to draw up effective measures, the foreign ministry is seeking to organise a meeting of the joint commission before the ICJ judgement on November 11, he said. But the joint commission could work immediately as it has element from all concerned agencies - political, economic and security clusters, Nattavudh said.

"We need this mechanism as a pre-emptive measure to prevent trouble. It's good if nothing happens after the court's judgement," he said. "Whatever the judgement is, we want to tell the people that business will go on as usual," he said.

A direct hotline between key members of the joint commission would be installed to make sure there is no misunderstanding, he said.

Rumours and social media could play a key role in spreading misunderstanding and social sentiment. So, the authorities have prepared personal equipment to handle public communications via social media, he said.

The public would be fully informed as the foreign ministry would will televise the reading of the verdict live with Thai translation and actual languages from the court in The Hague on the day, he said.

The ICJ ruled in 1962 that the ancient temple at Preah Vihear was situated in territory under the sovereignty of Cambodia. Thailand complied but argued that disputed area adjacent to the temple belongs to Thailand. Cambodia asked the court to interpret the 1962 judgement to clarify which country has control over land around the temple.

Thai Agent and Ambassador to the Hague Virachai Plasai anticipated four scenarios of the ICJ verdict. Scenario one, the court might say it will not interpret the 1962 judgement as it is already clear. Two, the court may rule in favour to Cambodia, saying the vicinity of the temple is along the boundary line as indicated by the French map of 1:200000 scale. Three, the court could say Thailand's compliance 50 years ago is proper. Four, the court may clarify some points or legal aspects of the 1962 verdict.

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