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Locals worry about clashes over ICJ’s Preah Vihear ruling

The Nation
Si Sa Ket April 13, 2013 1:00 am

Villagers ready to evacuate as Thai, Cambodian troops take position

People living in this border province are keeping their fingers crossed and hoping that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling on the Preah Vihear Temple and its surrounding area will not trigger a war or bloody clashes between Thai and Cambodian troops.

“We are worried about the possibility of a battle,” Prayote Meemui, 50, said yesterday. Prayote lives in the border village of Phoomsaron in Khantaralak district.

“We have been hearing the exchange of gunfire from time to time recently,” he said.

In response to Cambodia’s request, the ICJ is scheduled to hear statements from both countries between April 15 and April 19 before it forms an opinion on its 1962 judgement in relation to the ownership of the Preah Vihear Temple.

At the centre of the dispute is not just the ancient Hindu temple, which is now inscribed as a World Heritage site on Cambodian soil, but also its surrounding 4.6 square kilometres.

“My neighbours and I will watch the live broadcast of the ICJ hearings. We have to be alert at all times,” Prayote said, adding that he believed Cambodia would become dissatisfied if the ICJ ruled in Thailand’s favour or vice versa.

Locals say they have noticed that both Thailand and Cambodia have been moving more troops and weapons to the border zone since mid-March. While both sides claim to be doing military exercises, the locals believe that they need to be prepared for possible evacuation.

“I keep my car’s tank full at all times,” Niran Lumthaisong, 50, said, adding that he had packed up all their important documents and belongings to ensure that he and his family can leave the area immediately in case of emergency.

He said seven border villages in Si Sa Ket’s Tambon Sao Thong Chai have already set up protection teams, which will guard villages should a border clash erupt and most residents need to evacuate.

“We need security teams because evacuees cannot remove all their belongings immediately,” Niran explained.

Thailand and Cambodia have locked horns over the Preah Vihear Temple issue several times before, especially after Cambodia registered the Hindu temple as a World Heritage site.

Prayote said he hoped the ICJ would deliver a neutral verdict and support joint management of the area surrounding the temple.

Thai officials have closed down the Mor E Dang cliff, a popular tourist attraction, since the beginning of this month. The cliff is close to Preah Vihear and Thai authorities are concerned that some groups might go there to stage a protest, which might encourage the use of violence.

Soldiers have now been posted to guard the entrance to the Mor E Dang cliff.

ICJ ordered clear armed men from the map shown

ICJ ordered clear armed men from the map shown

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Written by Kham

13/04/2013 at 4:38 pm

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