Pongthep confident ahead of ICJ

Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Pongthep Thepkanchana is one of three government ministers who will attend the oral statements by Thailand and Cambodia at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over the Preah Vihear temple territorial dispute.

Pongthep: Urging public to follow live broadcast of temple dispute case

The hearings will take place next week from Monday to Friday. Mr Pongthep spoke to LAMPHAI INTATHEP about what the public should expect from the hearings at The Hague.

What is your role during the oral hearings?

We have a legal team headed by the Thai ambassador to The Hague, Virachai Plasai, to present our statement. Three ministers _ Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul, Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat and myself _ will be on standby there to discuss issues that may come up and to provide recommendations to the legal team should they need input from the government before making any decision.

After the first day of the oral hearings on Monday, which is scheduled for Cambodia, we will review our stance one more time.

How did you prepare for the case and what is your main argument?

We are not allowed to disclose our approach and neither is Cambodia.

All 1,300 pages of evidence will be available to the public on the ICJ's website and that of the Foreign Ministry on Monday.

We are ready to provide clarity on what Cambodia presents during the oral hearings and we are also prepared to respond to what we think Cambodia will say.

We will fight back on every possible aspect _ whether Cambodia asks the ICJ to consider an interpretation of the court's 1962 ruling or not, and whether the court is empowered to rule on the question of ownership of the disputed land.

Normally, any demarcation of a land boundary at the temple should be done by the Thailand-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission.

Do you have any concerns about the hearings?

No. Our delegation has prepared everything well and it comprises of experienced lawyers who are known worldwide.

What is the next step?

I don't think there would be any further steps following the hearings, only to wait for the court's ruling which is expected in October.

Have you prepared for a worst-case scenario in which Thailand loses the case? What message will you send to the public in that event?

Whatever the outcome is, I would like the public to closely watch the oral hearings which will be broadcast live from The Hague via Channel 11 and Radio Thailand. People will be able to understand the whole story and consider the issues by themselves. If the public follows the case they'll know whether our delegation did its best and whether the ruling is reasonable or not.

I would encourage everyone, especially those who live along the Thai-Cambodia border, to respect the law and to avoid creating any situation that may show that Thailand does not respect the legal process. That would reflect poorly on the country.

We should help create an atmosphere that shows Thais respect the law. We have done what is right. We do not trespass on other countries' territory.