Disputes over territory have definitely unmasked the “ugly side” of nations; throughout history, territorial disputes, sponsored by greed and legitimacy, have demonstrated ruthless actions pursued in order to attain more land. Studying past relations between Cambodia and Thailand, it is obvious that they have faced constant power struggles in multiple issues. In a recent case over a territorial dispute dating back to 2008, Cambodia has claimed that a small little patch of roughly 4.5. – square –kilometers in area belongs to its country. The land, although minuscule in size, does posses real value; the land surrounds the ancient temple of Preah Vihear. The ancient Hindu temple was created in the eleventh century and is devoted to Lord Shiva, also known as the “destroyer.” It is located in the beautiful Dangrek Mountains.


Possession over this land surrounding the Hindu temple is a very pressing issue for Cambodia. In 2008, the forever prime minister, Hun Sen, had the temple reviewed by the United Nation’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). In opposition, the Thai government let out border strikes that killed dozens of soldiers. Many civilians residing on both sides of the border had to evacuate due to the upsurge of violence between the two nations. It is unfortunate that the ownership of the land would create such issues.


Just yesterday, the United Nation’s top court, International Court of Justice, claimed that Cambodia possess sovereignty over the land and the ancient Hindu temple. The court ordered Bangkok to respect the decision of the court and remove all security forces position on the area. Previously in 1962, the International Court of Justice had vetoed Cambodia’s entitlement to the temple. With the new decision released, the Foreign Minister of Cambodia remarked that the verdict was “good enough”. On the other hand, official of the Thai government stated that they have plans to have further discussions on the issue with Cambodia to settle the disputes. Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra made a formal address upon the ruling that she will hold talks with Cambodia to guard the Kingdom’s interests.


This raises the question of the legitimacy of the decisions produced by the United Nation’s courts. The Cambodian government, pleased by the court’s decision did not assert any need for Thai-Cambodian talks. However Thailand demonstrates multiple indications of discontent with the ruling and occasions of stratification. For instance, Agence France Presse reported a demonstrator in Bangkok setting fire to a Cambodian flag. Thai schools also shut down all schools close to the border in response. In contrast to these actions, Thai Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul stated in The Hague “the decision is satisfactory to both sides. He remarked that the only need for talks would be to form a panel to discuss plans to develop the territory in a joint effort. On an optimistic note, Thai Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul statements could hold true and reveal that the decisions made by the UN’s court will be upheld and the nations will cooperate to ensure this. Hopefully, Cambodia and Thailand will have a mutually agreed upon map someday soon.

This post reflects the author’s personal opinions, not the opinions of Arizona Model United Nations.

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