Civil group sues over temple row

The Thai Patriots Network has filed a lawsuit with the Criminal Court against the foreign minister for issuing misleading information about the Preah Vihear temple.

The lawsuit, filed yesterday, accuses Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul and five ministry officials of malfeasance and misleading the public with false information.

The network, represented by core leader Chaiwat Sinsuwong, said the six had distributed several misleading documents, including the minutes of the Thailand-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) talks which the six claimed were legally binding.

The claim was untrue because the minutes had not been endorsed in parliament as required under the constitution, the network's lawsuit said.

Mr Chaiwat said the network had obtained about 700,000 signatures of members of the public supporting its stance against the International Court of Justice's (ICJ) pending hearing into the fate of the temple and the disputed 4.6 sq km area around it.

The ICJ awarded ownership of the temple to Cambodia in 1962. The land surrounding it has since been disputed by the two countries, and Cambodia has taken the matter to the court again. An ICJ ruling is expected later this year.

Bangkok senator Rosana Tositrakul and senator Kamnoon Sitthisammarn said the government should organise a referendum to find out whether the public wants the government to follow the ICJ ruling on the disputed area.

Meanwhile, members of a citizens' group which held weekend protests at the border calling for the return of the temple denied yesterday that a counter-protest by angry residents had driven them away.

The Dhamma Yatra group ended its rally in Kantharalak district of Si Sa Ket province on Sunday after residents protested against the group's activities. But Saman Sri-ngam, leader of the group, dismissed media reports that his group had retreated from the border area after encountering the protest by residents.

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Writer: Sermpong Thongsamrit & Nopparat Kingkaeo