The International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] ruled [judgment, PDF] Monday that Cambodia has sovereignty over a disputed piece of land around the 1,000-year-old Temple of the Preah Vihear [UNESCO profile], in an attempt to settle an ongoing border dispute between Cambodia and Thailand. The ICJ reasoned [AP report] that its 1962 decision awarding Cambodia control over the temple and its "vicinity" gave Cambodia control over the promontory [BBC report], a land formation that overlooks the temple. However, in its judgment, the ICJ declared that the vicinity of the temple did not extend beyond the promontory. Thailand's foreign minister said that the two nations would work together to enforce the ICJ's decision.
The area surrounding the Temple of Preah Vihear has been contested for more than a century, dating back to maps drawn after French colonial disengagement in the early 1900s. The temple, now partially in ruins, stands on a promontory of the Dangrek mountain range, which generally constitutes the boundary between Cambodia and Thailand. Parts of the Cambodia-Thailand border have never been formally demarcated, resulting in violent military clashes since 2008. Cambodia's ownership of the temple itself has never been contested [Bangkok Post report], but both nations lay claim to a 4.6 square kilometer patch of land on the joint border reportedly not covered by the ICJ's ruling. Thailand has long argued that the ICJ does not have jurisdiction to decide the border dispute. However, in April 2011 the Cambodian government petitioned [JURIST report] the ICJ to clarify the 1962 ruling in order to "peacefully and definitely settle the boundary problem" after a series of violent clashes left 28 dead. In response, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stressed [statement] that the dispute could not be resolved through military force and urged both sides to work towards a ceasefire. In July 2011 the ICJ ordered [JURIST report] both nations to immediately withdraw military personnel from the disputed area, however, both nations delayed replacing soldiers with police and security guards until July 2012.