PM: Cabinet to appoint committee to contend with Cambodia’s appeals to World Court


BANGKOK, May 1 — The Thai cabinet will be asked this Tuesday to appointing a committee to counter an appeal lodged by Phnom Penh government to the World Court to clarify its 1962 ruling about the ancient Preah Vihear temple, which sits on the disputed border with Thailand, as clashes between the two neighbouring countries continued. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Sunday during his weekly TV and radio address–held for the last time before he dissolves the lower house and call for a general election–that he would ask the cabinet during its weekly meeting this Tuesday to formally appoint a committee to counter Cambodia appeals to the International Court of Justice.

The Phnom Penh foreign ministry last Friday said it had made a request “for an interpretation of the Court’s judgment … concerning the temple of Preah Vihear which was prompted by Thailand’s repeated armed aggression to exert its claims on Cambodian territory.”

According to the statement, clarification by the court was of “the utmost necessity … in order to peacefully and definitely settle the boundary problem between the two countries in the area.”

In 1962, the court ruled that the 11th century Preah Vihear belonged to Cambodia, but both countries claim ownership of a 4.6-square-kilometre (1.8-square-mile) surrounding the area.

Mr Abhisit assured Thais that although the House of Representatives would be dissolved, expected sometime in early May, his caretaker government would continue to perform its duty in order to “protect Thailand’s benefit and sovereignty.”

The prime minister added although the border conflict is prolonged, it will not affect his planned House dissolution and the upcoming election, as the army can do its job and control the situation.

If the situation remains as it is during the next couple days where no heavy weapons have been used during the clashes, Mr Abhisit said, local residents earlier evacuated to temporary shelters will be allowed to return to their homes.

In the latest development, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya met with the prime minister at Government House this afternoon over the Cambodian appeals at the World Court.

Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, secretary to the foreign minister, revealed after the meeting that the premier has acknowledged the litigation process of the ministry and has instructed the ministry to conduct the case cautiously.

Regarding the cabinet meeting on May 3, the foreign ministry will ask the cabinet to appoint three foreign legal advisors who will work in a committee to help Thailand contest against Cambodia at the World Court, said Mr Chavanond.

The three, who are French, Canadian and Australian, are international law experts, stated Mr Chavanond, who have been retained as foreign ministry’s legal advisors before.

The secretary added Thailand expects to receive the details of Cambodia’s appeals soon and that the ministry has three weeks to respond to the complaint and then has to wait for the decision from the World Court whether it will proceed with Cambodia’s request to clarify the 1962 ruling.

Meanwhile, Col Prawit Hukaew, spokesman of Second Army Region Command, said two minor clashes continued Saturday near Ta Kwai temple in Surin’s Phanom Dong Rak district.

The first skirmish occurred at 7.00 p.m. after a number of Cambodian soldiers patrolling near Ta Kwai temple opened fire at Thai soldiers, forcing Thai soldiers to retaliate and fired back. Both sides exchanged gunfire for a short period.

Col Prawit said both sides clashed again at 9.45 p.m. and this time only machine guns and hand grenades were used. The fighting lasted until about 11.00 p.m.

Casualties of both sides were still unknown, he said.

Soldiers of the two countries have been fighting near the temple since April 22 with each side claiming to be attacked by the other first. (MCOT online news)