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A Thai legal team has been set up to fight the border case in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in response to Cambodia's petition that the court interpret its judgement of 1962 on Preah Vihear temple to clarify the territorial boundary between Thailand and Cambodia, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said on Friday.
The Cambodian Foreign Ministry announced today that it has sought the ICJ's interpretation of its judgement on Preah Vihear temple, accusing Thailand of repeated aggression in attempts to claim Cambodian territory.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva (Photo by Pattanapong Hirunard)
Mr Abhisit said Cambodia's move is not beyond expectations and a legal team has been set up to fight the case.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said Thailand is waiting for the ICJ to officially notify it of the Cambodian petition.
He said the application made by Cambodia to the ICJ is not unexpected, judging by Cambodia's acts of agression against Thailand during the past week.
Cambodia wanted to use the border clashes as a reason to bring the territorial issue to the ICJ, Mr Thani said.
"Thailand has been prepared for this. We have studied the issue and hired a team of lawyers to handle it.
"Thailand is of the opinion that resolving the conflict through bilateral talks is the best option, but Cambodia has turned to the ICJ."
This indicated that Cambodia does not attach much importance to talks under the Asean framework, Mr Thani said.
The spokesman said he expected the ICJ to officially notify Thailand of the Cambodian petition in one or two days.
After receiving the official notification from the ICJ, Thailand will thoroughly study Cambodia's request.
Mr Thani said that under normal procedure he would expected the ICJ to take about three weeks to decide whether to accept the petition for further proceedings.
If the case were accepted for consideration, the court may take one or two years to go through the related documents, Mr Thani said.
Meanwhile, 2nd Army spokesman Prawit Hukaew said local Cambodian military leaders have apologised for the clashes overnight, which claimed the life of a Thai soldier, and promised the ceasefire will not be breached again.
Col Prawit said the clashes happened even though Lt-Gen Tawatchai Samutsakhon, the 2nd Army commander, and Lt-Gen Chea Mon, the 4th Army Region chief of Cambodia, agreed verbally on Thursday to a ceasefire.
The fighting started at 8.55pm in the area east of Ta Kwai temple, on the border in Surin, and lasted about one hour, during which both sides used only small arms.
The exchange of fire resumed at 2am and continued to 5.30am on Friday, resulting in one Thai ranger killed and five wounded, he said.
Col Prawit said a factor which might have triggered the firefight was that the two sides, which were on high alert, were only 50 to 200 metres apart and ready to shoot on seeing or hearing anything suspicious.
An inability to keep their troops under control and miscommunication on the part of the Cambodian military commanders might be another cause, he said. Some Cambodian soldiers might also still be overwhelmed with hatred and anger and wanted to vent it, he said.
Col Prawit said the local Cambodian military leaders had contacted the Thai side to apologise, saying that the clashes arose from misunderstandings. They promised not to let this happen again, he added.
The spokesman said, however, that nobody could guarantee there would not be a recurrence of the "misunderstanding."
The talks between Lt-Gen Tawatchai and Lt-Gen Chea Mon had at least reduced the intensity of the fighting to only use of small arms, not heavy weapons, he said.
Col Prawit was optimistic that if this trend continued the situation could possibly return to normal in a week.
Villagers who have been evacuated to safety would not be allowed to return home until the situation had really returned to normal, he said.
Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, the army chief, said he had been briefed on the latest clashes by Lt-Gen Tawatchai, the 2nd Army chief.
He said what Lt-Gen Tawatchai and Lt-Gen Chea Mon agreed on was not a commitment and he never been certain there would be no more fighting.
Gen Prayuth said on Thursday night high-level military officers of the two countries talked on the telephone about the shooting, and the Cambodians said they would find out why it happened.
He said what happened was an attempt by Cambodia to raise the conflict internationally to the level of Asean and the United Nations.