Case Concerning the Temple of Preah Vihear (Cambodia v. Thailand) (July 18, 2011)
The International Court of Justice (“ICJ”) has indicated provisional measures in the Case Concerning the Temple of Preah Vihear (Cambodia v. Thailand). The Court ordered both parties to immediately withdraw their military forces stationed in the contested area, and both parties are to refrain from any military presence or activity within that area. Furthermore, the Court has ordered Thailand not to obstruct Cambodia’s access to the Temple of Preah Vihear, a historical site at the center of this dispute.
Cambodia filed an application with the ICJ against Thailand in April 2011, requesting the Court to interpret a previous ICJ judgment issued in June 1962, Case Concerning the Temple of Preah Vihear (Cambodia v. Thailand). In the 1962 judgment, the Court concluded that “the Temple of Preah Vihear is situated in territory under the sovereignty of Cambodia.” While Thailand does not challenge Cambodia’s sovereignty over the Temple, it claims that Cambodia’s sovereignty does not extend to the surrounding area. Instead, Thailand claims sovereignty over the surrounding area. The parties’ dispute over the contested area has led to armed clashes between them and has triggered the involvement of regional organizations, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (“ASEAN”).
The Court first concluded that “a difference of opinion or views” existed between the parties regarding the “meaning or scope of the 1962 Judgment.” The existence of a dispute satisfied the requirement of Article 60 of the ICJ Statute–Article 60 states in relevant part: “In the event of dispute as to the meaning or scope of the judgment, the Court shall construe it upon the request of any party”–and provided the Court with jurisdiction to entertain the case and indicate provisional measures under Article 41.
The Court was careful to note that the indication of provisional measures is limited to situations of urgency, i.e., where “a real and imminent risk [exists] that irreparable prejudice may be caused to the rights in dispute.” To this end, the Court noted the violent clashes that have already occurred between the parties, resulting in “fatalities, injuries and the displacement of local inhabitants.” The Court also observed the involvement of the UN Security Council and ASEAN, both providing support for a peaceful settlement of the dispute.
The Court has still to rule on the merits of the case.