The early call for Thailand to prepare for new hearings on the Preah Vihear temple is shrewd. Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul, army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha and other senior officials are rational about the issue. In about 100 days, Cambodia and Thailand will make legal submissions to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the disputed area around the temple. Thailand is sensibly hoping for the best, while preparing for the worst.
Mr Surapong, with the strong support of Gen Prayuth, said Thailand must respect the ICJ, which also is known as the World Court. They are correct. The ICJ is the body which decided in 1962 that the temple _ known in Thailand as Khao Phra Viharn _ belonged to Cambodia. That was a controversial decision. Few if any Thais even saw the logic in that ICJ ruling. But the fact then, and now, is that there are two choices. Thailand can support, defend and respect the rule of law _ or there will be war.
The government and the military are rightly concerned that extreme nationalists would rather force the country to fight. And this year, the extremists are adding fuel to their anti-ICJ rhetoric. Thaksin Shinawatra supposedly has secretly arranged a deal with Cambodia. The Phnom Penh government will give Thaksin and friends access to oil-rich areas, or allow them to run tourist resorts. In return, Thaksin has agreed to hand over control of the contested 4.6 sq km of "sacred Thai soil" around Preah Vihear.