Thai officials should seek clarification from the International Court of Justice if they believe a 1962 judgment does not explain the boundaries between the two countries, Cambodia’s top border negotiator said.
Thai officials have been quoted in the media saying the 1962 judgment of the court awarded Preah Vihear temple to Cambodia, but did not address adjacent land.
However, Var Kimhong, head of the Cambodian Border Committee, said the court used a map that was agreed on by both sides at the time to reach its decision—that the 11-th Century Hindu temple belonged to Cambodia and that Thai forces would have to vacate it.
In its judgment, the court cited a map from a French survey conducted in the early 1900s, which delineated the frontier between Cambodia, then under French protection, and Thailand, then called Siam. The border was to follow the watershed of the Dangrek mountains, except where it circumvented Preah Vihear temple, which sits on a high escarpment overlooking the Cambodian plains.
Thailand has since claimed it does not recognized the survey map and subsequent 1904 and 1907 border agreements and has laid claim to a small strip of land west of Preah Vihear temple, land that is also claimed by Cambodia.
The 4.6-kilometer area is now in the middle of a longstanding military standoff that has left eight soldiers dead and created a tense build-up of forces between the neighbors. The dispute was sparked by the addition of Preah Vihear temple to Unesco’s World Heritage list, under Cambodian jurisdiction, in July 2008.
Prime Minister Hun Sen said recently he may seek an international solution if the two sides cannot diffuse the situation alone. Multiple rounds of bilateral talks have so far failed.
Meanwhile, Thailand should submit evidence or arguments over the disputed area rather than act outside the World Court decision, Var Kimhong said.
He blamed internal politics in Thailand, which has been shaken by instability in recent years, as the cause behind the intractability of the dispute.
Thai officials have said they believe the problem will be solved at an upcoming Unesco meeting in Brazil in July.