A few months ago Cambodia asked the International Court of Justice, the UN’s highest judicial organ, to rule over the disputed border with Thailand. (map, from bbcimg.co.uk)
On Monday both countries were ordered by the UN’s highest court to withdraw troops from the disputed border region.
“Both parties should immediately withdraw their military personnel currently present in the provisional demilitarised zone and refrain from any military presence within that zone,” said the order, read by Judge Hisashi Owada, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) president.
The court also urged both countries to engage in talks and added that the situation “remains unstable” and “could deteriorate”.
And the ICJ said both countries must allow observers from the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to enter the area.
Although Thailand wants the case dropped, it has said it will respect the court’s ruling.
In 1962 the ICJ, seated in the Dutch capital The Hague, ruled that 11th Century Preah Vihear temple was Cambodia’s, but the two countries have been fighting for years for the area near the Hindu temple.
World Heritage site
At the end of May both countries orally argued their cases in court.
Hor Namhong, Cambodia’s deputy prime minister, asked for “an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all Thai forces from those parts of Cambodian territory situated in the area of the temple of Preah Vihear”.
He also demanded that “Thailand refrained from any act or action which could interfere with the rights of Cambodia or aggravate the dispute in the principal proceedings”.
In response to those demands, Virachai Plasai, Thailand’s ambassador to the Netherlands, said his country had asked the ICJ to scrap Cambodia’s case from the court’s general list.
In 2008 Unesco listed the temple as a World Heritage site. Cambodia said it increased tensions between the two nations.
The ICJ is one of six principal UN organs not located in New York. It was established in 1945 to settle disputes between countries.