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ICJ hearing, test for Cambodia-Thailand relations
Publication Date : 11-01-2013
Cambodia and Thailand face the question of whether bilateral relations will deteriorate as the International Court of Justice (ICJ) re-examines its ruling on the Preah Vihear Temple in 1962.
Relations have improved since Yingluck Shinawatra, the younger sister of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, came to power in 2011.
Yet tensions remain as the ICJ prepares for hearings from April 15 to 19 following a complaint by Cambodia in May 2011 over Thailand’s occupation of a zone around the temple since 2008.
Both Cambodia and Thailand are ready to listen to the explanation of the verdict in 1962 in which Cambodia won control of the temple.
"We have prepared lawyers and enough evidence," said Information Minister Khieu Kanarith. "We have also gradually sent lawyers to the court."
In Thailand, however, nationalist sentiment is spreading as the opposition National Liberation Alliance, known as the Yellow Shirts, has indicated its opposition to any decision made by the court in The Hague.
A key member of the Yellow Shirts has sent requests to Yingluck consisting of seven points.
The Yellow Shirts also want the government to announce that the ICJ does not have jurisdiction to rule over the ownership of 4.6 square kilometres of land around the temple. The group has threatened a strike against the government if its request is rejected.
Political tensions therefore persist, recalling the deadly clashes that have occurred along the border since Unesco named the temple as a world heritage site in 2008.
Yingluck, who at 46 is the youngest Thai premier in 60 years, is in the difficult position to find a solution acceptable to the Yellow Shirts while maintaining good relations with Cambodia.
Relations of Cambodia and Thailand should not be held hostage to Thai domestic politics. Cambodia and Thailand should live with each other peacefully. The hearings in April are thus new test for Yingluck.