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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Preah Vihear: The border was already settled by The Hague International Court of Justice

Preah Vihear:

The border was already settled by The Hague International Court of Justice

Near the end of June 2007, following Thailand’s reservations, UNESCO decided to “suspend” Cambodia’s request for the protection of the Preah Vihear Temple as a World Heritage site, and the UN body asked the two countries “to quickly resolve the issue of border demarcation at this location.”

In Bangkok, according to the news published on June 29, 2007, Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued the following statement: “In principle, Thailand totally agrees that the Preah Vihear Temple should be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, under the reservation that the differences on the site’s joint management and the problems of border demarcation are resolved first.” Immediately after this statement, Thailand sent its “black-clad uniformed” troops to prevent the access to the temple from the Thai side, and to close the border. These actions effectively created unease and excitation on Cambodia’s side.

The action taken by the Thai troops is nothing new when it comes to the Cambodian Preah Vihear Temple. Two years ago, in May 2005, “black-clad” Thai soldiers undertook the same action towards the temple. At the time, Thammarak Isarangura, the Thai Minister of Defense, declared that “Thai troops would remain (there) to assure that there will not be any crossings into the territories in conflict, until the two countries complete their demarcation work.” In Phnom Penh, Thailand’s ambassador to Cambodia declared that Thailand intends to respect the decision of The Hague International Court of Justice which gave the ownership of the Preah Vihear Temple to Cambodia in 1962. “However, the decision concerned the temple only and it did not precise the border delineation … That’s why this problem persists until nowadays.” On July 06, 2007, Viraphand Vacharathit, Thailand’s ambassador in Phnom Penh, implicitly placed the blame on Hun Sen’s government when he declared to the news media that “Cambodia knew very well that UNESCO would suspend this decision on Preah Vihear … because of the absence of the border demarcation line…”

In 2005, Hun Sen’s government promised to “resolve this problem of border delineation as soon as possible.” Now, Khieu Kanharith, the Minister of Information and spokesman of the government, vaguely said that “some small technical problems still remain to be resolved, regarding the new housing constructions, radio [broadcast] towers, irrigation canals, etc…” On the other hand, Va Kim Hong, the government minister in charge of border issues who is even more confused that his ministry of information colleague, let it be known that there would not be “any problem left for anyone, (because) the local authorities, the Preah Vihear provincial authorities, and our local people just have to present to us their problems, and we will resolve them together.”

The issue questioned by UNESCO involves the resolution of the so-called “white zone” located in front of Preah Vihear, a zone which Hun Sen’s government admitted its existence in the past few years to the great satisfaction of Thailand, this in spite of the historical stipulations of treaties recognized by both countries since 1907, and in spite of the irrevocable decision rendered by The Hague International Court of Justice in 1962 regarding this temple. In fact The Hague Court’s decision dated June 15, 1962, clearly indicated the prior existence of a border delineation between Thailand and Cambodia at this location, BEFORE the court issued its decision to hand the ownership of the temple to Cambodia (please read the court decision attached). There was no “white zone” and there is nothing to “negotiate” again on the border demarcation in front of the Preah Vihear temple. All that remain are the reference to the maps retained by The Hague International Court of Justice, and the building of the corresponding border demarcation posts. Such operation would be completed within a few weeks.

However, we recall that the existence of these “white zones” was adopted by Hun Sen and his party, the PRPK-CPP (PRPK is the acronym for the People's Revolutionary Party of Kampuchea which was later rechristened to the Cambodian People Party or CPP), following their conclusions on illegal treaties and agreements with Hanoi in the 80s on Cambodia’s new borders. These illegal treaties and agreements, which are perfidiously put into application, have de facto rejected or made obsolete all or part of other international treaties of Cambodia with respect to her territorial integrity. For example, the agreement of the cession by the PRPK-CPP to Hanoi of the islands of Koh Tral and Koh Krachak Seh, and of the so-called “Historical Waters” (a maritime “white zone”) between Vietnam and the People’s Republic of Kampuchea in July 1982, changed the delimitation of the maritime border between Cambodia and Vietnam, and subsequently, the one between Cambodia and Thailand, and it created “white zones” at sea between the two latter countries also. Obviously, these “white zones” later became conflict zones, zones where the law of jungle and instability prevail, and where the first victims are the defenseless and unprotected Cambodian population, this in spite of the confused and irresponsible assurances given by Hun Sen’s government (1).

The note by UNESCO on the imprecision of the border in front of the Preah Vihear Temple – an imprecision based on Thailand’s reservations which completely ignores the decision handed by the International Court of Justice on June 15, 1962 – is a dangerous precedent on the historical rights of Cambodia’s territorial integrity: it is the UNESCO, a UN institution, which accepts, at this location, the existence of a so-called “white zone” between the two countries. What will become of the other “white zones” which were recognized by the Hun Sen’s regime and by his party with Cambodia’s neighbors? By following this path, the entire Cambodia will soon become a “white zone” for Thailand and Vietnam – if it is not one now already – just as it was 200 years ago.


(1) During the 1954 Geneva conference, a 1:100,000-scale map produced and kept in France (latest edition­) was submitted to the International Control Commission (which was later presided by India under the leadership of Mr. K.L. Bindra), as well as a smaller scale map for ease of use under the circumstance.

On the other hand, between 1968 and 1971, France provided help to Cambodia to establish a 1:200,000-scale geologic map with the participation of 8 French geologists and engineers, as well as 20 other Khmer engineers who performed the works and the research under the direction Mr. Sean Pengse.

At the time, there was no “white zone”.

Paris, July 9, 2007

Vice-President, Cambodia's Border Committee

DY Kareth


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