Thai Foreign Minister: Border dispute may not end in Thailand’s favour


BANGKOK, Jan 4 – Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said today he was not confident Thailand will win the Phra Viharn (Preah Vihear) temple dispute filed by Cambodia in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Netherlands.

Meanwhile, the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), also known as the Yellow Shirt movement, said in its statement issued today that it would submit a letter to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra at Government House on Tuesday, calling on the government to reject the International Court of Justice’s jurisdiction on Preah Vihear case.

Mr Surapong, who is concurrently foreign minister, said he stood firm that the government will contest the case until all possibilities are exhausted by using the original Thai legal team, led by Virachai Plasai, Thai ambassador to The Hague.

He acknowledged that the stage seems set for reemergence of the temple as a domestic political issue.

“There are people who try to convince the Thai society to believe that the government is colluding with Cambodia which is untrue. I have never negotiated for a compromise,” said Mr Surapong.

He blamed the previous government under then premier Abhisit Vejjajiva for “breaking the relationship with the neighbouring country.”

He said the foreign and defence ministries have jointly set up a public relations team to explain the facts [on the Thai-Cambodian border dispute] and create understanding among the Thai people concerning the case to avoid confusion.

“The team’s explanation includes consequences from the ICJ’s probable negative verdict against Thailand. If Thailand doesn’t accept the verdict, the government will ask the public’s opinion on how to move on, carefully bearing in mind the pros and cons. Thailand may face [difficult relations with] the United Nations if it doesn’t accept the verdict,” the deputy prime minister warned.

He predicted two scenarios in the ICJ’s verdict: Thailand loses the case, or the two countries move back to the original status quo in 1962.

The conflict between Thailand and Cambodia erupted shortly after UNESCO approved Cambodia’s bid to have Phra Viharn temple named a World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008. Thailand claims ownership of 4.6 square kilometres of scrubland next to the temple.