“These repeated victories should send a clear message to Thailand that its fight with Cambodia over Preah Vihear is futile and that, for the sake of good camaraderie with Cambodia, it should give up its claims to the temple.”
The listing of the Preah Vihear temple on the World Heritage List has vindicated Cambodia’s undeniable right of ownership of the temple. The decision of the World Heritage Committee to list the Preah Vihear temple has given Cambodia one more time justice and victory over Thailand, after the International Court of Justice adjudicated to give ownership of the temple to Cambodia in 1962. These repeated victories should send a clear message to Thailand that its fight with Cambodia over Preah Vihear is futile and that, for the sake of good camaraderie with Cambodia, it should give up its claims to the temple. (Views the pictures of Cambodians celebrate the victory here).
Cambodians of all political persuasions should celebrate this victory in a grand scale but with cautious optimism, as the wrangling over Preah Vihear is not yet over. While we Cambodians should be happy and proud of this victory, we must not be oblivious to the fact that the battle over the 4.6 square kilometres claimed by Thailand as a disputed area is yet to begin and it will be as fierce a battle as the one fought over the application to list the temple itself.
The one and the only treaty that Cambodia ever signed with Thailand was the 1908 treaty. That treaty had clearly given Cambodia the Preah Vihear temple and the surrounding areas, including the 4.6 square kilometres claimed by Thailand. (See map above).
When Cambodia took Thailand to the International Court of Justice in 1962 it was over the issue of Thailand violating Cambodia’s territorial integrity and, when the court adjudicated in favour of Cambodia’s claims, it means that the court adjudicated to give full sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Preah Vihear temple and its surrounding territorial claims to Cambodia. Therefore, Cambodia must fight with all its resources to put these lands under its sovereignty.
The anticipated fierce battle over the 4.6 square kilometres should be fought with the same veracity as the one fought in the 1962 court case and the one fought over the application to list the Preah Vihear temple. If need be, should diplomacy fails to achieve a satisfactory result, Cambodia should not vacillate in taking Thailand to the International Court Justice one more time.
My worry, and my only concern, is that Cambodia might lose these parts of the lands to Thailand in future border agreements. I foresee that, at best, Cambodia might only secure 2.3 square kilometres of these lands. If my prediction is right, then it would be a tragic ending to the battle so promising that had begun in 1962.