The temple and its vicinity have long been a bone of contention between the neighbours and have in recent years led to deadly clashes between them. In a June judgment, the ICJ found that the temple is situated in territory under the sovereignty of Cambodia, and that Thailand is under an obligation to withdraw any military or police forces, or other guards or keepers, stationed at the Temple or in its vicinity on Cambodian territory. In its decision today , the Court declared unanimously that the Judgement decided that Cambodia had sovereignty over the whole territory of the promontory of Preah Vihear, and that Thailand is obligated to withdraw its forces from that territory. In this respect, the Court recalled that Cambodia and Thailand — which are both parties to the World Heritage Convention — must cooperate in the protection of the site as a world heritage.
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In the ICJ ruled that only the temple building belonged to Cambodia, while the direct way to access the temple was from Thailand  , but currently, as of at least , the only access is from inside Cambodia.
Ancient history[ edit ] Construction of the first temple on the site began in the early 9th century; both then and in the following centuries it was dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva in his manifestations as the mountain gods Sikharesvara and Bhadresvara.
Today, elements of the Banteay Srei style of the late 10th century can be seen, but most of the temple was constructed during the reigns of the Khmer kings Suryavarman I   —97 — and Suryavarman II — An inscription found at the temple provides a detailed account of Suryavarman II studying sacred rituals, celebrating religious festivals and making gifts, including white parasols , golden bowls and elephants , to his spiritual advisor, the aged Brahmin Divakarapandita. The Brahmin himself took an interest in the temple, according to the inscription, donating to it a golden statue of a dancing Shiva known as Nataraja.
The temple is located on a hill, oriented along a north-south axis and facing the plains to the north in what is now Thailand. Nomenclature[ edit ] Prasat Preah Vihear is the compound of words Prasat, Preah and Vihear, which mean the "religious offering of sacred shrine". These versions of the name carry significant political and national connotations see below: New dispute over ownership.
Although this structure is very different from the temple mountains found at Angkor , it serves the same purpose as a stylised representation of Mount Meru , the home of the gods. The approach to the sanctuary is punctuated by five gopuras these are conventionally numbered from the sanctuary outwards, so gopura five is the first to be reached by visitors. Each of the gopuras before the courtyards is reached by a set of steps, and so marks a change in height which increases their impact.
The fifth gopura, in the Koh Ker style, retains traces of the red paint with which it was once decorated, although the tiled roof has now disappeared. The third is the largest, and is also flanked by two halls. The sanctuary is reached via two successive courtyards, in the outer of which are two libraries. Plan of Prasat Preah Vihear Modern history and ownership dispute[ edit ] Drawing of temple structures In modern times, Prasat Preah Vihear was rediscovered by the outside world and became subject of an emotional dispute between Thailand and the newly independent Cambodia.
However, the resulting topographic map, which was sent to Siamese authorities and used in the International Court of Justice ICJ ruling, showed the line deviating slightly from the watershed without explanation in the Preah Vihear area, placing all of the temple on the Cambodian side.
Following the withdrawal of French troops from Cambodia in , Thai forces occupied the temple to enforce their claim. Cambodia protested and in asked the ICJ to rule that the temple and the surrounding land lay in Cambodian territory. The case became a volatile political issue in both countries. Diplomatic relations were severed, and threats of force were voiced by both governments.
Arguing in The Hague for Cambodia was former U. Cambodia contended the map showing the temple as being on Cambodian soil was the authoritative document. If Thailand had not protested the map earlier, the Thai side said, it was because Thai authorities had had actual possession of the temple for some period of time, due to the great difficulty of scaling the steep hillside from the Cambodian side, or simply had not understood that the map was wrong.
Illustration of temple structures On 15 June , the court ruled 9 to 3 that the temple belonged to Cambodia and, by a vote of 7 to 5, that Thailand must return any antiquities such as sculptures that it had removed from the temple.
Nor did they object when a French colonial official received the Siamese scholar and government figure Prince Damrong at the temple in possibly before the Thais realised the map was wrong. Thailand had accepted and benefited from other parts of the border treaty, the court ruled. With these and other acts, it said, Thailand had accepted the map and therefore Cambodia was the owner of the temple.
The maps were moreover communicated to the Siamese members of the Mixed Commission, who said nothing, to the Siamese Minister of the Interior, Prince Damrong, who thanked the French Minister in Bangkok for them, and to the Siamese provincial governors, some of whom knew of Preah Vihear. If the Siamese authorities accepted the Annex I map without investigation, they could not now plead any error vitiating the reality of their consent.
The Siamese Government and later the Thai Government had raised no query about the Annex I map prior to its negotiations with Cambodia in Bangkok in But in a survey had established a divergence between the map line and the true line of the watershed, and other maps had been produced showing the Temple as being in Thailand.
Thailand had nevertheless continued to also use and indeed to publish maps showing Preah Vihear as lying in Cambodia. Moreover, in the course of the negotiations for the and Franco-Siamese Treaties, which confirmed the existing frontiers, and in in Washington before the Franco-Siamese Conciliation Commission, Thailand was silent. The natural inference was that Thailand had accepted the frontier at Preah Vihear as it was drawn on the map, irrespective of its correspondence with the watershed line.
On the contrary, France always insisted that their map was correct and the temple was located on their side of the natural watershed which it clearly is not. Spender said: Whether the Mixed Commission did or did not delimit the Dangrek, the truth, in my opinion, is that the frontier line on that mountain range is today the line of the watershed. The Court however has upheld a frontier line which is not the line of the watershed, one which in the critical area of the Temple is an entirely different one.
This finds its justification in the application of the concepts of recognition or acquiescence. It announced it would boycott meetings of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization , with Thai officials saying this step was to protest a U.
Mass demonstrations were staged in Thailand protesting the ruling. Thailand eventually backed down and agreed to turn the site over to Cambodia. Rather than lower the Thai national flag that had been flying at the temple, Thai soldiers dug up and removed the pole with it still flying.
In January , Cambodia formally took possession of the site in a ceremony attended by around 1, people, many of whom had made the arduous climb up the cliff from the Cambodian side.
He made a gesture of conciliation in the ceremony, announcing that all Thais would be able to visit the temple without visas, and that Thailand was free to keep any antiquities it may have taken away from the site.
Soldiers loyal to the Lon Nol government in Phnom Penh continued to hold it long after the plain below fell to communist forces. Tourists were able to visit from the Thai side during the war.
The Khmer Rouge made several unsuccessful attempts to capture the temple, then finally succeeded on May 22, by shelling the cliff, scaling it and routing the defenders, Thai officials reported at the time. The defenders simply stepped across the border and surrendered to Thai authorities. Full-scale war began again in Cambodia in December when the Vietnamese army invaded to overthrow the Khmer Rouge.
Khmer Rouge troops retreated to border areas. In January, the Vietnamese reportedly attacked Khmer Rouge troops holed up in the temple, but there were no reports of damage to it. Large numbers of Cambodian refugees entered Thailand after the invasion. Guerrilla warfare continued in Cambodia through the s and well into the s, hampering access to Preah Vihear.
The temple opened briefly to the public in , only to be re-occupied the following year by Khmer Rouge fighters. Expulsion of Cambodian refugees[ edit ] On June 12, , the government of General Kriangsak Chomanan , who had come to power in Thailand by a military coup, informed foreign embassies in Bangkok that it was going to expel a large number of Cambodian refugees.
He would allow the governments of the United States , France , and Australia to select 1, of the refugees to resettle in their countries. Lionel Rosenblatt , Refugee Coordinator of the American Embassy, Yvette Pierpaoli , a French businesswoman in Bangkok, and representatives of the Australian and French governments rushed to the border to select the refugees that night.
In three frantic hours the foreigners picked out 1, refugees for resettlement from among the thousands being held by Thai soldiers behind barbed wire in a Buddhist temple at Wat Ko Refugee Camp and loaded them on buses to go to Bangkok.
The remaining refugees were then loaded on buses and sent away, their destination unknown. It later became known that Cambodian refugees had been collected from many locations and sent to Preah Vihear. An American Embassy official stood beneath a tree along a dirt road leading to the temple, counted the buses, and estimated that about 42, Cambodians were taken to Preah Vihear. The refugees were unloaded from the buses and pushed down the steep escarpment.
Some people hid on top of the mountain and survived. Others were shot or pushed over the cliff. Most of the people began to climb down using vines as ropes. They tied their children on their backs and strapped them across their chests. As the people climbed down, the soldiers threw big rocks over the cliff.
The refugees followed a narrow path, the safe route indicated by the bodies of those who had set off land mines. They used the bodies as stepping stones to cross the three miles of mined land to reach the Vietnamese soldiers, occupiers of Cambodia, on the other side.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees later estimated that as many as 3, Cambodians had died in the push-back and another 7, were unaccounted for. If so, it worked. For the next dozen years the UN and Western countries would pay for the upkeep of Cambodian refugees in Thailand, resettling thousands in other countries, and devising means by which Cambodians could return safely to their own country. The two nations agreed that Cambodia should propose the site for formal inscription on the World Heritage List at the 32nd session of the World Heritage Committee in with the active support of Thailand.
This led to a redrawing of the map of the area for proposed inscription, leaving only the temple and its immediate environs. In response to the political pressure at home, the Thai government withdrew its formal support for the listing of Preah Vihear Temple as a World Heritage site.
Cambodia continued with the application for World Heritage status and, despite official Thai protests, on July 7, , Preah Vihear Temple was inscribed on the list of World Heritage sites. The renewed national boundary dispute since has been a reminder that despite the World Heritage ideals of conservation for all humanity, operating a World Heritage site often requires use of national authority at odds with the local cultures and natural diversity of the landscape.
Prior to the listing, Cambodia considered Preah Vihear to be part of a Protected Landscape IUCN category V , defined as "Nationally significant natural and semi-natural landscapes which must be maintained to provide opportunities for recreation.
Safeguarding the integrity of this traditional interaction is vital to the protection, maintenance and evolution of such an area. The use of passes in the Dongrak Mountains reportedly tied together cultural communities and practices divided by a militarized and imperfectly demarcated modern border line.
A Mon-Khmer ethnic minority, the Kui or Suay the ethnonyms have multiple spellings , used the passes to hunt and capture elephants in the forests below the Dongrak cliff edge, including the Kulen area which is now a Cambodian wildlife sanctuary. Kui in Cambodia were skilled ironsmiths using ore from Phnom Dek. One international law professor has urged that practicality calls for laying aside exclusive sovereignty in favor of an "international peace park.
It could be given back to nature and the indigenous peoples, to be managed cooperatively between the two governments in equal partnership with local communities, as a transborder Protected Landscape-Anthropological Reserve IUCN category V and old category VII.
Disputes over ownership since [ edit ] Main article: Cambodian—Thai border dispute The conflict between Cambodia and Thailand over land adjoining the site has led to periodic outbreaks of violence. A military clash occurred in October The Cambodian government has claimed that damage occurred to the temple. Charter and a judgment from the International Court of Justice", the letter claims.
However, Thailand has insisted that bilateral discussions could better solve the issue. As a consequence, Thailand withdrew from the event, with the Thai representative explaining, "We withdraw to say we do not accept any decision from this meeting. The court said this order would not prejudice any final ruling on where the border in the area between Thailand and Cambodia should fall.
Between the first and second decade of the 12th century, Divakara was asked by Suryavarman II to go on a pilgrimage to the temples to offer gifts, preside over ritual sacrifices and carry out improvements and repair works.
At Preah Vihear temple, Davakara offered precious objects to Shikhareshvara, such as a statue, probably of gold, of the dancing Shiva. He added a gold dais inlaid with precious stones, covered the temple floor with bronze plaques and decorated the walls with plates of precious metal. He ordered that the towers, courts and main entrance be redecorated annually.
He also distributed payments to all those who worked at the temple. This inscription is engraved on a stele found inside the mandapa. Written in Sanskrit and Khmer probably between and , it contains important history about Preah Vihear temple.
It narrates the story of a local personage, Sukarman, who carried out the duties of Recorder in the Sanctuary and keeper of Archives of the Kingdom.
UN court rules for Cambodia in Preah Vihear temple dispute with Thailand
Temple of Preah Vihear Cambodia v. Thailand, , ICJ Principle: Principle of acquiescence International law uses of principle of equity, which is a principle of law used in civilized nation and international law adopted the same. Fact: Preah temple was an ancient and significant temple due to its cultural and historical value. It was situated on the border of Thailand and Cambodia. Though Thailand was the historical owner of that area in when Cambodia was a colony of French they came to an agreement with Thailand; they agreed to divide the border according to the watershed.
Preah Vihear Temple, Preah Vihear Province
Thailand Cambodia v. Thailand Overview of the case Cambodia complained that Thailand had occupied a piece of its territory surrounding the ruins of the Temple of Preah Vihear, a place of pilgrimage and worship for Cambodians, and asked the Court to declare that territorial sovereignty over the Temple belonged to it and that Thailand was under an obligation to withdraw the armed detachment stationed there since In its Judgment on the merits, rendered on 15 June , the Court noted that a Franco-Siamese Treaty of provided that, in the area under consideration, the frontier was to follow the watershed line, and that a map based on the work of a Mixed Delimitation Commission showed the Temple on the Cambodian side of the boundary. Thailand asserted various arguments aimed at showing that the map had no binding character.