Friday, January 14, 2011

Opinion; The Arrest of Seven Thais Intruders – Is it A Legal Issue or a Border-Dispute?

Legal Controversy?

By Sam Sotha

{The comments are solely the opinion of the author and   do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Royal Government of Cambodia

On December 29, 2010, seven Thais had been arrested by Cambodian authorities  for illegally entering Cambodia. These seven were sent to a Cambodian prison in Phnom Penh for temporary detention.  The Municipal Court (First Instance Tribunal) charged them with: 1) illegal crossing into Cambodian territory and 2) unlawfully entering a military base with ill will.  They had their   first hearing at the Court on Thursday, January 6, 2011.

These seven Thais include a Member of Thai Parliament, Mr. Nanich Vikitsreth; Mr. Veera Somkwamkid, a co-leader of a political Thai group called People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), known as the “Yellow Shirt”.  Mr. Veera had been arrested several times by Cambodian authorities before.  The last one was in August 2010, and again was charged for the same offense - illegal border crossing.

Their arrest has since then stirred up political and legal controversies in Bangkok.  Some Thai groups have urged their government to seriously negotiate with Prime Minister Hun Sen, basically meaning or implying that the seven should be released unconditionally, and in the process alleging falsely that the  seven were arrested on Thai territory instead.

Thai Prime Minister Mr. Abhisit Vijjajiva said on Friday, January 7, (published in Bangkok Post) that his Party was concerned only the charges against the seven arrested individuals and that the charges cannot be used to support any claim by Cambodia over border demarcation, nor would it allow Cambodia to get everything it is seeking for at the World Heritage Committee meeting in Bahrain in June this year.

These people are in the stage of confusion.  These people are in the stage of illusion and delusion.

Firstly, the judicial branch of someone’s government is at risk.  The world judicial system is at risk. Trespassing into someone else’s property or land without permission is illegal.  Trespassing into a sovereign country’s border without permission and proper travel documentation, intentionally or unintentionally is illegal and must be arrested and prosecuted under the affected country’s jurisdiction.

There are many countries in the world, which have arrested people who crossed their border, detained them and prosecuted them. So allow the Cambodian Court to do its job unhindered and unimpeded.  Justice in every civilized sovereign state must be implied through its own judicial system which subscribes fully to the principles of rule of law of the land without exception or  “double standards”.
As far as the so called disputed area in the case is concerned, it does not make any sense.  The arrest of seven Thais was made in Cambodian territory.  On his return from Cambodia, Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya stated that the seven were found to have been on Cambodian soil during their arrest. He said that a survey by officials from the Department of Treaties and Legal Affairs and the Royal Thai Survey Department found that the seven were also inside Cambodia. This statement is clear evidence to implicate and convict the seven!

The seven Thais themselves had admitted to intruding into Cambodian soil when shown their actual position on the map and the video recording of their presence.  The seven knew that they had entered Cambodian territory, Sa Kaeo governor Sanit Naksooksri said. Furthermore, Mr Sanit said the government could not make the excuse that the seven Thais led by Democrat Party MP Panich Vikitsreth and yellow-shirt activist Veera Somkwamkid had lost their way and entered Cambodia accidentally.

In a later statement, the yellow shirts (published in Bangkok Post on 12 January) did admit that the Thais had trespassed onto sovereign Cambodian soil, with the hope that they would get a royal pardon from the Cambodian King.

So, let the Cambodian Court do its job!

Secondly, the above mentioned groups deserved to be reminded about the principles of international law.  “There are no disputed areas!”  Cambodia’s government has always used the internationally recognized map in every negotiation, the map used by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, on June 15, 1962 to deliver its judgment. The Court noted that Thailand in 1908-1909, did accept the Annex I map as representing the outcome of the work of delimitation, and hence recognized the line on that map as being the frontier line. The Court concluded further that “the acceptance of the Annex I map by the Parties caused the map to enter the treaty settlement and to become an integral part of it”; and thereby conferred on it a “binding character”.

To this end the Court decided among the 3 points that: 1)“finds that the Temple of Preah Vihear is situated in territory under the sovereignty of Cambodia”; and that 2) Thailand is under an obligation to withdraw all military, police or other guards or keepers, stationed by her at the Temple, or in its vicinity on Cambodian territory.”

Cambodia never uses unilateral or a non internationally recognized map!

Those extremist groups have repeatedly betrayed history and the principles of “International Law”:  The Temple of Preah Vihear is the property of Cambodia thereby the submission of the management plan to World Heritage Committee to preserve the Temple is Cambodia’s ultimate goal.

Any action which lacks of maturity and is contrary to the above principles would ignite tensions and will surely put Thailand at a disadvantage in any future negotiations.

Mr. Sam Sotha is the author of the “In the Shade of A Quiet Killing Place”. His personal memoire. About the book visit the

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