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Expert Discusses Historic Temple Decision

Hundreds of soldiers on the Thai and Cambodian sides of the northern border are amassed near Preah Vihear temple, but in 1962, another kind of battle altogether was underway.

At that time, Thailand or Cambodia contested each other’s rights to the temple. But a battle in international court, fought by lawyers, not in the jungles by soldiers, brought Preah Vihear temple under Cambodian authority.

“When Cambodia won the lawsuit, Thailand recognized the verdict of the court, then Thailand sent to the UN a map that Thailand drew unilaterally,” said Sean Pengse, president of the Cambodian Border Committee, a group that advocates for border integrity.

Both sides now have different maps, leading to border contests, but Preah Vihear temple squarely belongs to Cambodia.

Sean Pengse said Cambodia should follow the 1962 example in its current border dispute with Thailand, which has been ongoing for nearly a year and has cost the lives of at least three Cambodian and three Thai soldiers.

Cambodian and Thai officials have said they can solve the problem bilaterally, but it has proven intractable in the face of political unrest in Thailand.