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Analysts See Role for International Court in Border Row

ambodia's Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, second left, shakes hands with his Thai counterpart Kasit Piromya as Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, center, Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo, left, and Laos' Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith

With Thai and Cambodian foreign ministers meeting in Jakarta on Tuesday, Cambodian analysts say the best way to resolve an ongoing border dispute is to call on the International Court of Justice to clarify a decision it made in 1962.

That decision, which handed Preah Vihear temple to the Cambodians, who had filed for it, could also clarify a disputed area of 4.6 square kilometers of land near the temple, analysts said this week.

Cambodia is hoping that meetings among Asean ministers in Jakarta will bring about a resolution to the violence stemming from the dispute, including deadly clashes earlier this month.

However, proponents of the court clarification told VOA Khmer that the UN Security Council and Asean, both of which have weighed in on the conflict, are political bodies that can perhaps bring about an end to fighting but cannot fix the underlying issue of the land dispute itself.

“Whose land is the 4.6 square [kilometers]?” asked Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the head of a self-named royalist party, in an interview with VOA Khmer. “Without such a question, the Cambodian-Thai issue cannot be solved.”

Only the international court can decide, said Chheang Vannarith, head of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and peace.

“Only the court can define whose land it is,” he said. “Because the UN and Asean mechanisms are only political mechanisms, just to stabilize and bring peace and security along the border, they cannot find a solution as to which part belongs to the Thais and which part belongs to Cambodians.”

Cambodian officials have said that in fighting between Feb. 4 and Feb. 7, Thailand crossed into Cambodian territory, a claim the Thais have denied. The fighting forced thousands from their homes and killed at least seven Cambodians, including two civilians.

Ahead of Tuesday’s Asean talks, Cambodia said it was optimistic a lasting ceasefire can be achieved, but the question of the disputed borders remains unanswered. A number of Cambodian analysts don’t believe Asean will be able to solve the problem for the long term, pointing instead to the international court.

Thai officials have maintained they want to solve the issue bilaterally, but in the wake of February’s fighting Cambodia’s leaders dismissed the effectiveness of two-way talks and are seeking Asean’s help as a monitor to later talks.

A court official told VOA Khmer that the Preah Vihear temple case has already been decided and any clarification or re-interpretation of the decision would require an official request by both parties. As it stands, the official said, neither side has made a request.