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Thai Govt warns against defying ICJ ruling

Surapong denies giving up Preah Vihear fight
Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul has come under criticism for his ‘no-win’ remark involving the border dispute with Cambodia.
Bangkokpost 5-01-2013

Thais should be wary of the consequences if they want to defy the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling on the Preah Vihear temple, the Foreign Ministry warned Friday.

Army commander Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha: “We are neighbours, we must live together peacefully. Nobody wants fighting.”

Chan-Ocha: We'll fight to defend our sovereignty,if invaded

Chan-Ocha: We’ll fight to defend our sovereignty,if invaded

As a member of the international community, Thailand must comply with whatever decision is issued by the court in the Hague in October, it said Friday.

Cambodia has asked the ICJ to clarify its 1962 ruling on the dispute surrounding the border temple.

The court ruled the temple belonged to Cambodia, but some territory around it has been contested by both countries since.

PAD’s ‘patriots’: Government traitors

The ministry’s warning comes after public criticism of remarks by Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul in which he suggested the court case was a “no-win” situation for Thailand.

He said late last month he was pursuing the case with a heavy heart.

“If we lose the case, we lose it [territory]. Even if we don’t lose the case, it goes back to square one. That is, the temple belongs to Cambodia and the area surrounding it remains as it is,” Mr Surapong said.

The minister denied media accusations he had a vested interest in seeing the dispute go Cambodia’s way, or was unenthusiastic about fighting the case.

Cambodia will present an oral statement to the judges on April 15 and Thailand on April 19. The court is likely to give its ruling in October.

“My government and I want peace and stability and we never let our guard down,” Mr Surapong said.

“If the people would like to fight, we will certainly do so. But bear in mind that we are neighbours, situated side by side, and can’t just be cut apart,” he said.

The foreign minister on Friday chaired a meeting of the committee representing Thailand in the case, comprising the defence minister, army chief, attorney-general, the Royal Thai Survey Department, the Council of State.

“We have been arguing all along the ICJ should not tamper with old verdicts. But from now on, we are preparing the public to accept whatever the verdict will be,” Mr Surapong said.

He said the public should understand the consequences if Thailand chooses not to comply with the ICJ, particularly the likely trade and economic impacts.

He was concerned that anti-government, nationalistic forces were exploiting and politicising the ICJ issue.

Defence Minister ACM Sukumpol Suwanatat said the temple issue was sensitive and the government should take a united stand to avoid confusing the public.

Personally, he said, he was confident the ICJ’s ruling in October would be the same as its earlier one.

He said the media and the public should not be pessimistic. “We should lend moral support to each other. The government is prepared.”

He agreed Thailand must comply with the ICJ ruling.

Army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha said that as a military officer who is duty-bound to defend the country’s sovereignty, he is ready to fight if the country’s territory is invaded.

“But as we are neighbours, we must live together peacefully. Nobody wants fighting,” he said.

Virachai Palasai, ambassador to the Netherlands, said an oral hearing was complementary to the written statement that both nations have presented to the Hague. The Hindu temple, not the surrounding territory, would be the object of the verdict since the court had been asked to re-interpret its old verdict.

“We should not take it as losing or winning,” said Mr Virachai, who said his legal team, comprising himself, head of the Treaties and Legal Affairs Department, three foreign lawyers and two foreign assistants, has received full support from the Yingluck government.

“We have been working with technical and legal experts and no one has interfered in our work,” he said.

He was appointed under the previous government.

Four scenarios could emerge from the ruling, Mr Virachai said. The court might declare it has no jurisdiction, or decide in favour of Thailand or Cambodia, or in favour of both sides, he said.

“As members of the the United Nations, both countries have to comply with the decision, however it comes out,” he said. “If not, the UN Security Council might be asked to make either side abide by the ruling,” the Hague-based ambassador said.

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