UN court draws DMZ for Thai, Cambodia troops

WHS#1224 Preah Vihear | Tourist Maps | Travel Guide | Photo & Video | News Update

By ARTHUR MAX, Associated Press – 4 hours ago

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The U.N.’s highest court Monday ordered troops from both Thailand and Cambodia to immediately withdraw military forces from disputed areas around a World Heritage temple straddling their border.

The court drew a “provisional demilitarized zone” around the 1,000-year-old Preah Vihear temple that would push Thai troops back from positions they have long occupied and would see Cambodian armed forces leave the temple’s immediate vicinity.

At least 20 people have died since 2008 in clashes between the two countries that continued as late as last April, when military commanders agreed to an oral cease-fire.

By a vote of 11-5, the judges of the International Court of Justice went beyond Cambodia’s request to order Thai troops out of the area, and imposed restrictions on both armies and police forces.

It said it decided to intercede to avoid the risk of more clashes and further damage to the ancient Hindu shrine.

It also called on the two nations to allow officers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations into the area to observe the cease-fire, which was called for by the U.N. Security Council last February.

Both sides said they were satisfied with the decision.

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya noted the court had declined Cambodia’s demand for a unilateral Thai pullback.A withdrawal of armed Cambodians from the temple complex “has been our consistent position,” he said outside the courtroom.

He said the decision is binding on both countries, and Thailand would abide by the ruling to withdraw forces and facilitate the observers’ deployment. Thailand also agreed to the court’s instruction to allow unhindered supplies to Cambodian civilian personnel at the temple complex, he said.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said the establishment of a demilitarized zone would mean “a permanent cease-fire. This is tantamount to a cessation of aggression” by Thailand. He also voiced satisfaction with the dispatch of truce observers, which he said Cambodia had been seeking since last February.

In brief remarks to reporters, he made no reference to the demand for Cambodian troops to abandon the temple grounds.

The court ruled in 1962 that Preah Vihear is in Cambodian territory, a judgment Thailand does not dispute.

But the earlier ruling failed to draw definitive boundaries. Cambodia went to the U.N. tribunal for clarifications on “the meaning and scope” of the ruling. Thailand argued that the court has no need to take further action.

The court said its ruling would not prejudice any final ruling on the where the border should fall. It could take the court many months or even years to reach that decision.

Fighting since 2008, when the shrine to the Hindu god Shiva was declared a World Heritage site, has driven tens of thousands of people from the area and wounded dozens, in addition to the score who have been killed.

A map of the demilitarized zone proscribed an area of several square kilometers, with Thai troops moving off a ridge line north of the temple and Cambodian forces moving across a deep valley south of the shrine. Supplies to the temple would have to come via a road that Thailand claims runs through its territory.

Preceding Thai elections earlier this month, border tensions in the area escalated, in part by pressure from influential Thai nationalist groups that have protested in Bangkok, urging the government to take back disputed territory. Hardcore nationalists insist the 1962 World Court ruling awarding the temple to Cambodia was unfair.

According to its World Heritage listing, the temple “is exceptional for the quality of its architecture, which is adapted to the natural environment and the religious function of the temple, as well as for the exceptional quality of its carved stone ornamentation.”

Source link