By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The question raised by Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf after the hearing session on the 'vicinity' of the Preah Vihear was of personal interest to the judge but sent no significant signal about the case, Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said.
The judge asked Thailand and Cambodia to define the vicinity of Preah Vihear on maps or graphics of the area and show it to the court.
The court required a reply in written form from both sides by April 26, and the parties would have to submit responses to each other’s definitions by May 3.
Some observers said the judge’s question sent a signal that the court was willing to address the issue of the status of the temple’s vicinity, and showed an inclination to accept the case for interpretation as requested by Cambodia.
Surapong said he asked Judge Yusuf in person during a reception party after the hearing on Wednesday about the significance and implications of the question.
The question reflected the personal interest of Judge Yusuf, not of the court’s panel, but the judge would circulate the replies from both sides to the other 16 members of the court, Surapong said.
Thai envoy Virachai Plasai said it was unusual for a judge to raise a question after a hearing session had ended, and to request answers in written form. Previously, the court or judges would ask questions during the hearing session and demand an immediate answer.
“But we should not panic over the judge’s question. It implies nothing for the whole case,” Virachai told reporters.
Thailand and Cambodia are in conflict over the interpretation of the 1962 judgement the International Court of Justice (ICJ) which rules the Preah Vihear temple is situated in territory under the sovereignty of Cambodia and orders Thailand to withdraw troops from the temple and its vicinity.
Cambodia asked the court to make clear that the vicinity of the temple should go along with the boundary line appeared in the Annex I map of 1:200,000 scale. hailand argues it left the “vicin¬ity” of the temple 50 years ago as ordered, and that the area whose status Cambodia wants the court to interpret is not same as that referred to in its previous judgement.