International Court Rules on Cambodia-Thailand Border Dispute

Posted July 18th, 2011 at 11:40 am (UTC-5)
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The U.N.'s highest court has ordered both Cambodia and Thailand to immediately withdraw all troops and police from a newly declared demilitarized zone around an ancient temple on their border.

The International Court of Justice in The Hague also ruled Monday that both countries should allow observers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations into the area to observe a cease-fire.

The case was brought by Cambodia, which wants the court to give an interpretation of a 1962 ruling that the temple is in Cambodia. However, the court went beyond that and declared the “provisional” demilitarized zone, saying both countries should remove their troops.

On Monday, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, said the court decision is aimed at reducing tension and he thinks that the two countries should work together to see how can they can do that. He said this would also help prevent misunderstandings and accidents.

There was no immediate comment from Cambodia on the court ruling.

The two sides argued their cases before the 15 judges at The Hague at the end of May. The court will later consider the request for an interpretation, but it did not say when it would do so.

Thailand accepts that the temple, called Preah Vihear (PREH-vee-HEAR) in Cambodia and Phra Viharn (PRAH WEE-hahn) in Thailand, belongs to Cambodia. But Bangkok has long claimed much of the land surrounding the complex, including a key access point.

Tensions have mounted since 2008, when the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization listed the temple as a World Heritage Site. More than 20 people have died in fighting along the border this year.