Cambodia, Thailand clash at top UN court over ancient temple

Featured South East Asia - April 16th, 2013

Thailand and Cambodia have again locked horns in a decades-old dispute over an ancient temple along their shared border, a political and historical flashpoint in the countries’ relations.

The Hague-based International Court of Justice, UN’s highest court, begun a week of hearings on Monday after Cambodia asked to clarify a 50-year-old ruling on the Preah Vihear temple, reports AFP.

The UNESCO World Heritage site is administered by Cambodia, but Thailand says that boundaries surrounding the site remain unclear, according to Radio Free Asia. Both sides claim an adjacent 4.6-sq. km. (1.8-sq. m) of land.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, speaking at the court, said that without clear demarcations of temple boundaries, relations with Thailand “cannot be friendly, peaceful and cooperative in the future”.

“I would like to request the court issue a verdict to end this dispute that has led to a negative relationship between Cambodia and its neighbor Thailand for the past several years,” he said.

Violent clashes between the two sides have erupted since 2008. The two countries eventually pulled hundreds of soldiers out of the disputed border area in 2012 following an ICJ ruling. The 900-year-old Khmer temple is now in a virtual state of calm.