Thailand, Cambodia Prep for Preah Vihear Border Dispute Judgment

Thailand and Cambodia are preparing a new joint working group for whatever decision the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issues next month in the court battle over disputed borderland around Preah Vihear temple, which has sparked deadly clashes in recent years.

However, the neighbors appear to differ on what the new group would do.

Both countries are eagerly awaiting the ICJ’s verdict on November 11 to determine which of them owns the hotly contested 4.6 square km plot of land adjacent to the border-hugging temple, in a case Cambodia filed with the U.N.’s top court in 2011.

Var Kimhong, the Cambodian co-chair of the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Committee, said the new working group was the brainchild of Thai Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul, who talked Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong into the idea during a phone call a few days ago.

“They spoke together and both sides agreed,” he said, adding that the group would include officials from their respective ministries of defense, interior and foreign affairs.

“For us it’s to facilitate the implementation of the decision of the court,” Mr. Kimhong said. “We just prepare for all eventualities.”

However, Mr. Surapong, according to Thailand’s The Nation newspaper, said that the new joint working group’s primary aim was to prevent the outbreak of any conflict sparked by the judgment.

To that aim, Mr. Surapong reportedly said, “it’s possible to have a meeting with our Cambodian counterparts before the ICJ verdict.”

Neither Mr. Kimhong nor Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Cambodian Foreign Affairs Ministry, knew of any such plans.

Mr. Kuong said his understanding of the new body was that Cambodia and Thailand would separately set up their own inter-ministerial joint working group to prepare for the ICJ’s judgment. But he did not know how, or even if, these two groups would ever meet each other.

“Mr. Namhong is ready to talk with his counterpart, Mr. Surapong,” he said.

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