12 Nov 2013
PHNOM PENH/BANGKOK - The International Court of Justice on Monday afternoon unanimously confirmed Phnom Penh's sovereignty over the entire disputed promontory bearing the Preah Vihear temple on the Thai-Cambodia border. Part of the promontory (a 4.6 km2 piece of land adjacent to the temple) will now be reverted to Cambodia, which will then allow visitors to have an access to the temple from the Cambodian site. The ICJ also reaffirmed that Thailand must withdraw its armed security troops from the temple’s compound.
The first ruling over Preah Vihear temple was done in 1962 when Thailand rejected Phnom Penh sovereignty over the centuries-old Khmer sacred site.
Cambodia asked the court for an interpretation of an original 1962 ruling, after an outbreak of violence in 2011 killed at least 28 people and displaced thousands, but there are fears Monday's decision could spark renewed clashes and revive nationalist tensions.
The United Nations' highest court only specified that the natural promontory should correspond to the border line between both countries. The decision was welcomed in Cambodia, which claims the 4.6-km area around the temple is needed to access the World Heritage Site. "This is the victory of all the Cambodian nation and the reward to the political maturity of the current Royal government," Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said on his Facebook page.
Thailand Minister of Foreign Affairs Surapong Tovichakchaikul declared that the court decision will help however working out a plan to develop together the area. A common administration of the UNESCO World Heritage Site including revenue-sharing from tourism could help diffuse the political tension between both countries and help opening a new area to international travellers. It could even turn Preah Vihear into a major asset of the entire region. The 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple offers one of the most spectacular location, perched on a rocky plateau overlooking both countries.