Eversheds advises government of Cambodia on Preah Vihear dispute

The international arbitration team at Eversheds has successfully represented the government of Cambodia in the International Court of Justice (ICJ), in relation to a case brought by Cambodia against Thailand concerning the interpretation of the court’s 1962 judgment in the case concerning the Temple of Preah Vihear.

The ICJ ruled that Thailand is obliged to withdraw from a disputed area of land surrounding the Temple, the extent to which was not defined in the original judgment. Both parties were encouraged to co-operate in protecting the Temple and in ensuring Cambodia’s access to it.

The dispute emerged from an ICJ ruling in 1962, when the court rendered a judgment that held that the Temple is situated in territory under the sovereignty of Cambodia and that, in consequence, Thailand was under an obligation to withdraw any forces stationed at the Temple or in its vicinity. However, the ICJ did not specify at that time the extent of the ‘vicinity’ of the Temple to which the obligation of withdrawal applied.

Tensions flared in the region in 2007–08, and again in 2011, as a result of Cambodia’s initiative to have the Temple listed as a World Heritage site. Following these incidents, Cambodia introduced a new case requesting the ICJ to interpret its original judgment, particularly the geographical extent of the vicinity of the Temple, from which Thailand had an obligation to withdraw.

With its judgment on 11 November 2013, the court has now defined that area.

Singapore-based partner Rodman Bundy and associate Naomi Briercliffe in Paris represented Cambodia in the proceedings.

The team has recently been engaged in two other ICJ cases in the region: the Singapore-Malaysia case concerning sovereignty over the island of Pedra Branca and Middle Rocks, in which Bundy and Loretta Malintoppi represented Singapore; and the Indonesia-Malaysia case concerning sovereignty over the islands of Sipadan and Ligitan, in which Eversheds represented Indonesia.