Thaksin’s proxy government, led by Samak Sundaravej, was forced to withdraw support for Cambodia’s UNESCO application after royalist-nationalist political forces and their “yellow-shirt” supporters claimed the government was sacrificing Thai sovereignty over the temple.
The best possible outcome from the ICJ is an ambiguous verdict that leaves the 1962 agreement as a guide, according to Dr. Pongsudhirak.
“This would force the two parties to work out an arrangement, which is possible now that a pro-Thaksin government that gets along much better with [Cambodian] Prime Minister Hun Sen has reclaimed electoral power in Thailand,” he said.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
But if tensions do spiral out of control following a verdict, intervention by ASEAN could be key.
“ASEAN’s role will be salient after the ICJ decision, which will test ASEAN’s mettle as a regional organization,” he said.
As a “patron of Cambodia and close friend of Thailand,” China could also help diplomatically if a bilateral conflict were to arise, he added.
Both nations have sent teams of world-class lawyers to The Hague, armed with maps, documents and pages of oral testimony that will be delivered to the court.
Cambodia opened proceedings earlier in the week, using the colonial-era maps as the basis for their main argument, while Thailand responded on Wednesday, contesting the validity of the maps and the jurisdiction of the court to rule on the border demarcation.
Any decision from the ICJ will be final and legally binding, with no chance for appeal.
The prospects for all-out conflict at this point remain slim but it is questionable whether either proud nation will accept the humiliation of defeat in six months time when the court is expected to deliver a verdict.
The dispute could then drag on, and remain susceptible to the domestic political posturing that has proved dangerous in the past.