International Law: A Basic Foundation to Maintaining Lasting Peace


Since Thailand ignored successive requests made respectively by France and Cambodia from 1949 to 1959, urging Thailand to withdraw all its forces from the Temple of Preah Vihear and the areas of its vicinity, Cambodia’s only option is to resort to the legal action against it.  Therefore, the International Court of Justice in The Hague which is the only Principal Organ of the United Nations responsible for the handling of all legal affairs of this world body that Cambodia has to approach for help.


In 1962, the Court considered the Case as the ‘dispute over the territorial sovereignty’ has dragged on between the two countries. To settle this issue the Court has referred to the map which was established by a series of treaties including of 1893, 1904 and 1907.  Based on the map, namely the “Dangrek – Commission de délimitation entre l’Indo-Chine et le Siam” (Dangrek – Commission of the Delimitation between Indo-China and Siam”, the Court decided on 15 June 1962 that, “the Temple of Preah Vihear is situated in the territory under the sovereignty of Cambodia and in consequence, that Thailand is under an obligation to withdraw any military or police forces, or other guards or keepers, stationed by her at the Temple, or in its vicinity on Cambodian territory.”


The decision made by the Court means that the Court did consider the Annex I map. The Court did say that “Thailand in 1908-1909 did accept the Annex I map as representing the outcome of the work of delimitation, and hence recognized the line on that map as being the frontier line” and that “the acceptance of Annex I map by the Parties caused the map to enter the treaty settlement and to become an integral part of it.”


Following the decision rendered by the Court in 1962, the world could clearly see that at home Thailand angrily reacted.  The then Thai Prime Minister Sarit Thanarat tried to send troops to block the access to the Temple, but it was relented when the Thai King said “the Order of the Court must be honored”, which meant that Sarit must order all troops to withdraw from the Temple and the areas of its vicinity.


Nevertheless, more than a half of a century thereafter the Court decision, when the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO decided to inscribe the Temple of Preah Vihear on the World Heritage list thanks to its uniqueness and universal and outstanding value of humanity in July 2008, Thailand launched a series of attacks using heavy weapon, artilleries and tanks.  The war waged by Thailand a gainst Cambodia continued till April this year.


It is indeed a flagrant violation of the international laws including the ‘Order’ of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) of the UN.  The Thai repeated offences caused harm on Cambodia and inflicted untold sufferings to her innocent people and damages to several parts of the Temple.

The Thai offences against the law can be seen through its repeated attempts to occupy Cambodian territory by force.  However, no law of the land, be it national or international, would allow people to steal or to plunder other people’s rightful properties without due punishment.


There were interventions from the UN Security Council and the ASEAN, but regretfully Thailand did not honor to such international mechanisms.  To this end, Cambodia can no longer endure these acts of aggression but going to the Court, requesting it to make the “interpretation of the Judgment of 15 June 1962 in the Case concerning the Temple of Preah Vihear”, and requesting the Court for the “indication of provisional measures”.  Cambodia requested that Thailand must withdraw all their troops immediately from the vicinity areas of the Temple.


The Court did accept the application of the Kingdom of Cambodia and did conduct a two-day public hearing on May 30-31, 2011.


The Court has not made any decision yet. In the meantime, Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen repeatedly said “We should wait and allow the UN Court to work and decide on the Case”.  But the Thai side has done otherwise.  It does not deserve a civilized nation for it acted as an outlaw.


The Bangkok Post, Thai English newspaper, published on June 5, 201, quoted both statements of Minister of Defense and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand that “If the International Court of Justice in The Hague ordered Thailand to withdraw troops, it (the Court) should order Cambodia to do the same.”  What’s a joke! How come!  Would the Court listen to Thailand and should the criminal and the victim be treated equally, the world order should have inevitably collapsed!


The Bangkok Post published on June 6, 2011; quoted the statement of Mr. Abhist,  caretaker prime minister of Thailand that, “Cambodia should withdraw all border dispute cases from international bodies and return to talk with Thailand”!  Again, what’s a joke!


If comparing might, of course Thailand is really superior to Cambodia.  However, it doesn’t matter large or small nations: good will, mutual respect, sincerity, among others, are the principles upon which the United Nations have set to maintaining lasting peace, a peace among neighbors especially with Cambodia!


The suppression by acts of aggression shall also recall the spirit of Member States who initially created the United Nations Organization after WWII.


Has Thailand, therefore, observed these principles and the foundation of the international law?



About the Author: Mr. Sam Sotha is a former Ambassador for Mine Action, Explosive Remnants of War (ERW), Cluster Munitions and Disarmament. He is currently served as Advisor to the Prime Minister and Secretary of State of the Office of the Council of Ministers. He is also the author of the book entitled “IN THE SHADE of A Quiet killing Place”, his Personal Memoir.  About the book, go to: Web site:


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