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Police to be deployed at Thailand-Cambodia border temple

Publication Date : 18-07-2012


Troop adjustments to be made in the vicinity of the Preah Vihear temple in northeast Thailand today are intended as a signal to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that Thailand and Cambodia are complying with the court's order for demilitarisation of the disputed border area.

Thaikand Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat, together with Army commander-in-chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha and other senior military officers, will preside over a ceremony to pull out some troops and replace police in the area.

At around the same time, Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Tea Banh will do his part on the Cambodian side in the same area.

Phnom Penh will pull out 485 troops and put 250 policemen and 100 security guards into the area and at the Preah Vihear temple.

Thailand will station 200 police in the area but has not made clear how many soldiers are being withdrawn from it. "In fact, the situation at the border has been returned to normal. There is no tension and no clashes in the area, but what we have to do now is to show that we are complying with the court's order," said the Defence Ministry's Chief of policy and planning Niphat Thonglek.

Thailand and Cambodia have been at loggerheads over the Preah Vihear temple since the last century. The ICJ ruled in 1962 that the Hindu temple was situated in territory under sovereignty of Cambodia, but Thailand argued that the land surrounding the temple belonged to it.

The border area has not been demarcated as both sides claim an overlapping area of 4.6 square kilometres. Many military clashes over the years at the border have claimed dozens of lives on both sides.

Last year, Cambodia asked the court to clarify the scope and meaning of the 1962 judgment. The court is in the process of interpreting it and has issued provisional measures since July 18 last year for a demilitarised zone of 17.3 square kilometres near the temple. The court ordered both sides to refrain from military activities and prohibited Thailand from blocking access to the Preah Vihear.

The ICJ asked both sides to continue cooperation with Asean, in particular allowing an Indonesian observer team into the court-determined zone.

Jakarta has drafted a term of reference for the observer's role and procedures for access into the area. Cambodia agreed with the TOR but Thailand has sat on it since the previous government, due to internal political conflict.

Foreign Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul said Cabinet would consider the TOR and might push it forward in Parliament for reading in accordance with Article 190 of the Constitution next month.

Over the past year, both sides submitted documents to back up their arguments. Thailand requested oral testimony, perhaps its last before a final verdict, and the court will open another oral hearing in April next year. The court was expected to reach a verdict by September or October next year, according to Niphat.

The military has done its best to protect national sovereignty over the territory and often sends personnel to help support the Foreign Ministry at court proceedings in The Hague, the Netherlands, he said.


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