Analysis of the Preah-Vihear Temple Case, Cambodia v/s Thailand at the International Court of Justice under Common Territorial Claims involving Land Disputes

Solida Svay


Sovereign rights of a State can be regarded as constituting of components such as territory, population, government and the capacity to enter into relations with other states according to Article 1 of the Montevideo Convention on Rights and Duties of State, 1933.  Though sovereignty in itself is not limited to those specific criteria, the prime goals of most states remains however the acquisition of territory.  Often when the question about territorial possession is raised, it follows an important factor that comes into play: the borders surrounding it.  In fact history bears testimony to the innumerable international boundary disputes that have surfaced at the International Court of Justice and continue to draw worldwide attention in this modern era.This paper aims to rationalize the Temple of Preah-Vihear case that has been subject of a land dispute between Cambodia and Thailand, by using common territorial claims such as geography, treaty claim, uti posseditis, history, effective control of land and culture presented during the course of the proceedings.  The Temple of Preah-Vihear Case is a typical land dispute that has been brought twice at the International Court of Justice.  Even though the first judgment rendered in 1962 proved that Cambodia had sovereignty over the Temple of Preah-Vihear and its vicinity, due to heated situations along the borders that was threatening peace in that region and unsuccessful bilateral consensus, the International Court of Justice was solicited again by both countries in order to clear the misunderstandings that cropped up, by interpreting the initial judgment again in 2013.  Whilst the International Court of Justice reached a decision in unanimity with its previous judgment, it can be noted that it relied greatly on the legal basis that treaty claim asserts.  Not to undermine the importance of other territorial claims which, according to some skeptics, the court did not adequately acknowledged, the substantial role of the court in concordantly applying principles of international law to make up for the rebuttal of other territorial claims deemed as less compliant and legally indecisive, is emphasized. Finally the paper concludes the importance of proper border delimitation in territorial disputes and to what extent it would have quelled the tension between Cambodia and Thailand.  In addition, even though no rule makes it a legal obligation to fully delimit land frontiers, border delimitation can be instrumental in the proper functioning of sovereignty and this methodology, if properly and duly implemented, can help to avoid land disputes already present or susceptible to occur in the future.

Keywords: land disputes, International Court of Justice, Sovereignty, territorial claims, land delimitation, Preah-Vihear Temple

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ISSN (Paper)2224-3240 ISSN (Online)2224-3259

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