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International Court Opens Hearings on Preah Vihear Temple

In this photo taken Nov. 7, 2008, a Cambodian deminer, holds a map of a disputed border at an entrance of Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple in a world heritage site near the Cambodian-Thai border.
PHNOM PENH - The International Court of Justice on Monday began a hearing over disputed land near an ancient temple on the Thai-Cambodian border, which was at the center of a volatile military standoff between the two neighbors from 2008 to 2011.

The court awarded the World Heritage temple of Preah Vihear Cambodian ownership in 1962, but Cambodia says it also wants clarification on the grounds surrounding it.

Failure to define those borders could “very probably have unfortunate consequences, which would prevent the two states from living in a friendly, peaceful and cooperative environment,” Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said on the first of four days of hearings in the Hague on Monday.

Thailand and Cambodia disagree over ownership of a small strip of land west of the temple, which became the focus of a military standoff following the temple’s addition to Unesco’s World Heritage site list. The temple remains a source of national pride for many Cambodians, but the border surrounding it is also a source of pride for many Thais.

“I hope your court will be able to hand down a judgment...which will finally close this dispute which has darkened relations over the past years,” Hor Namhong was quoted saying by the Associated Press.