The ICJ Judgement, the Prasat Preah Vihear and the Cambodian People

Prasat Preah VihearToday marks historical event for Cambodia while the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague of Holand interpreted the verdict of the Preah Vihear issue of June 15, 1962 again as this temple is belong to Cambodia, not Thailand. On this November 11, 2013, the court affirmed its stand again. Cambodian people from all strata including the politicians are happily cheering to this judgement. The most cheering politicians are Prime Minister, adviser(s) to Premier and the spokesperson of the government (listened from RFI and VOA).

For online group debate such as CAN and Campro, the members shared different aspects on the judgement. Reading the original document of the judgement, the court declared the Temple belongs to Cambodia while the document doesn’t elaborate or clarify the contested surrounding area or vicinity of 4.6 km square land parcel. The court termed “promontory” or means “a narrow area of high land that sticks out into the sea” in its written judgement. For Cambodia, the mentioned 4.6 km square is not mentioned its legal contesting at all. Cambodia has never said or termed such 4.6 km square; Cambodia has seriously referred legal contesting to the Map or the Annex 1 map, according to Phy Siphan, the spokesperson on Hello VOA today. After the court released its judgement, the editor of ThaiPBS Sermsuk says Thailand has lost 1-2 sq km around temple NOT 4.6 sq km (link).

The interpretation conundrum might rest within a sloppy trail as individual Cambodian and Thai will have their say and their vocal opinion.

However, the jurisdiction of the court has already been impregnably uncontested. When all parties discussed on those long standing legal and technical aspects in front of the judge(s), the conclusion to this final decision has already covered all those filing documents and arguments. This interpretation is different from the judgement on the June 15, 1962 as the addendum of documents and arguments have already been warrant from all concerned and contested parties. So the judgement in this time adjudicated all legal compositions and ascended into mission-fulfilled legal attainment. The temple, the surrounding, the vicinity or the promontory etc., all belong to Cambodia.

For fans on facebook, their say is critical. For Khieu Thy, a professional Tour Guide in Siem Reap said before the judgement that:

Cambodia owns 4,8sqkm at Preah Vihear Temple area, and Cambodia must win the case at UN court in Holland at 4:00pm today (November 11th, 2103), we are Cambodians cannot afford and tolerate to lose anymore land from our precious ancestors. Our nation has been suffering so much of land loosing since 14th on.
And after the judgement, he expressed release as he said:
Finally, the Justice comes to Cambodia. ICJ now rules as the same as in 1962. Land area approximately 4,8sqkm at Preah Vihear temple has no word “the Disputing or the Overlapping” between Cambodia and Thailand anymore. It’s Cambodia’s sovereignty.
For Ou Virak, the director of Human Rights Cener (HRC), he concluded as saying that:
I am cautiously celebrating the “victory” of the International Court of Justice’s ruling today that Cambodia has sovereignty of the World Heritage Preah Vihear Temple. The ruling only interprets the 1962 decision. To me, this is as I have expected, no surprises. I am cautious because Thai politics is very volatile and nationalists and the military could use this as a rally point which could escalate the situation. Also, Phnom Trop, a site of fierce clashes before, is not considered by the court, leaving room for overlapping claims by both sides again. I think the ruling is helping cementing a clearer decision and hope will be seen as a victory for Cambodia, for Thailand and the world. Thailand should see this as opportunity to work closer with Cambodia to bring about lasting peace and truly benefit from a stable region. We share much of history, culture and heritage and let’s put the common interest ahead of political one. The Cambodian government needs to be extremely careful in not adding fuel to the political fire in Thailand, extend the hand to Thailand to discuss developing the areas so both sides could benefit.

But the long-standing contender of border scheme with neighbors and territorial handling by Hun Sen government, Mr. Sieng Pengse argued differently. For Pengse, he argued that the judgement of the Court of Hague has already affirmed that Preah Vihear and surrounding area belongs to Cambodia but the conflict has been triggered in this area because Cambodia under the leadership of Hun Sen has been positioning itself within a weakness of social, political and economic development. The weakness is not only with the neighboring countries, it extends to the international arena. With Thailand, Hun Sen government sometime endorsed confrontational approach and sometime brought the issue to the international court of justice like the ICJ. But with Vietnam, Hun Sen government has been so submissive. As the matter of fact, the supplemental border treaty of 2005 has helped leverage Vietnamese a legal domination towards this nation at least by legalizing the illegal and unequal border treaties during the occupation of Vietnam over Cambodia’s sovereign territory. As the result, many meters of border land and Koh Trol island have been gradually trespassed and taken over by Vietnam government.

Looking at the leadership on both levels: governance system/bureaucrats and individual leadership characteristic, Hun Sen government has not planned to bring about credibility, confidence, trust and universal value at all. They have employed much of the exclusive political strategies by excluding all critics, opposition activists, grassroots movements and NGOs. The party has concerned on lifeblood loyalty, not ability at all. Party members from bottom to top level are full of people who are flattering their bosses rather than elaborating the core issues. The management of state budget is full of corruption including traditional bribery and the selling of state asset, all have become normal for Hun Sen government. Hun Sen cannot conduct any reform and do any change to welcome strategy of inclusiveness because himself, his wife, children and family members all are enjoying the luxurious life on the backbone and shoulder of Cambodian people as well as the piling property of national wealth.

From this critical argument and well-longed observation, the Hun Sen government has not only exhausted its internal strength but also brought about bad credit to Cambodia within the eyes of its neighboring countries and the international spheres.

We wish only this judgement has been respected by both parties to build lasting peace, cooperation, and sustainable development at the disputed areas as well as along the borderline (land and sea). This wish is not picky only on Thailand, but also includes Lao and Vietnam as well!

Below is the latest ICJ document and the video screening regarding this re-interpretation.

ICJ Reinterpretation of Judgement on 15 June 1962 and 11 November 2013

Khmer Song by Preap Sovath “Prasat Preah Vihear”

The ICJ Judgement reported by the VOA

Live Judgement from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) from the Hague of Holland on 11 November 2013

Live Judgement from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) from the Hague of Holland on 15-19 April 2013