Government readies campaign for ICJ ruling

The Foreign Ministry is launching a campaign to prevent the politicisation of the pending International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling on the disputed area around the Preah Vihear temple.

Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said a campaign to educate the public about the Preah Vihear dispute will proceed throughout the year, with the ICJ ruling expected to be delivered in October.

Documentary programmes on the issue will be broadcast on state media outlets, while the ministry will also work with the Interior Ministry to ensure the public is properly informed about the case.

He said the Department of Treaties and Legal Affairs will brief provincial governors on the issue so they can explain it to people in their provinces.

"What frightens us is that some groups will manipulate people to do bad things if they don't like the verdict," he said.

"This will be a huge problem because the ICJ verdict must be respected.

"Defying the court ruling will land Thailand in trouble. We have to explain to the public what the previous government did that prompted Cambodia to go to the ICJ," he said.

Mr Surapong said while the campaign gets underway the ministry will ensure the ICJ's injunction which orders the demilitarisation of the area is followed.

He said the Thai-Cambodian Joint Working Group has agreed to identify the demilitarised zone around Preah Vihear temple and prepare to clear all landmines by next month.

The mine-clearing operation is expected to proceed within the first quarter of the year, he added.

Mr Surapong said he and Education Minister Pongthep Thepkanchana will also meet legal experts and lawyers working on the case in February.

He said the cabinet will then be asked to endorse the arguments, which will be presented during the ICJ's hearing during April 15-19. Mr Surapong said he is unlikely to attend the hearing.

He said he is pursuing the case with a heavy heart because it is a "no-win" situation for Thailand.

"If we lose the case, we lose it [territory]. Even if we don't lose the case, it goes back to square one. That is, the temple belongs to Cambodia and the area surrounding it remains as it is," Mr Surapong said.

Cambodia has asked the ICJ to clarify its 1962 ruling on the dispute surrounding the border temple. The court had previously ruled the temple belonged to Cambodia, but some territory around it has been contested by both countries since.

Mr Surapong said he is concerned about people living on the Thai-Cambodian border who could be affected by the dispute. "When the Asean Economic Community becomes a reality, countries will become borderless. I don't want to see any border clashes," he said.

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