Thai team at the ICJ confident
15 April 2013Land dispute hearing begins today with Cambodian arguments; legal counsel 'satisfied' with Thai case
Thailand's legal team is confident that it has a good case and strong evidence to present at the four-day hearing in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) case involving the dispute with Cambodia over land near Preah Vihear Temple, which opens today.
After a preparatory meeting with the legal counsel, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul said the team has confidence in the evidence and in the support provided by the Thai government for the court battle.
"We can handle and pinpoint all necessary issues and arguments to be raised by Cambodia in the court," Surapong told reporters after the meeting.
Surapong and Defence Minister Sukampol Suwannathat are among the 48-member Thai delegation that will attend the hearing. Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Phongthep Thepkanjana, who is a legal expert, will also attend today's court hearing.
Sukampol said Thailand's team of legal advisers was satisfied with information provided by the military and the Royal Thai Survey Department. The evidence was sufficient to support the Thai case, he said.
Professor Alain Pellet, one of Thailand's legal counsels in the case, expressed his appreciation for the support provided by the government and the Foreign Ministry, which he said gave the team solid ground on which to handle any challenges from Cambodia.
The Cambodian delegation, led by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, who is agent for his country, will address the court today. They are expected to ask the court to clarify the status of the land in the vicinity of the ancient Hindu temple.
The ICJ ruled in 1962 that Preah Vihear Temple is situated on territory under the sovereignty of Cambodia and ordered Thailand to withdraw troops from the temple and its vicinity. In complying with the judgement, Thailand in 1962 relinquished several square kilometres of land on which the temple is situated.
Phnom Penh submitted a request on April 28, 2011 that the 1962 judgement be interpreted, after border skirmishes erupted. It asked the court to define the status of land in Preah Vihear Temple's vicinity in accordance with the boundary line indicated on a French-made map of 1:200,000 scale.
The Thai Ambassador to The Hague, Virachai Plasai, is the agent for Thailand. He will lead the team in giving oral testimony to the court on Wednesday.
Cambodia's main argument is based on the boundary line as defined on the French map, which enabled the court in 1962 to find that sovereignty over the temple and its vicinity rested with Cambodia.
Thailand's main argument is that Thai troops withdrew from the area deemed to be under the sovereignty of Cambodia 50 years ago. The court has no authority to interpret the boundary line as it is not the subject of the operative clause of the judgement, according to Thailand.
Virachai said Cambodia is trying to have the court rule on the boundary line, which he said was beyond the scope of the original judgement. "The two countries had no disagreement about the 1962 judgement over the past 50 years until recently, when Cambodia changed its position [on the area adjacent to Preah Vihear]," Virachai told reporters.
Cambodia, indeed, asked the ICJ to rule on the boundary line 50 years ago but the court rejected the request, he said. The request for interpretation this time could be regarded as an appeal to the court on the issue, but the time for appeals in the case is long over, he said.