Of Temples and Territory: The ICJ's Preah Vihear Decision and Implications for Regional Dispute Resolution
University of the District of Columbia Law Review, Spring 2016
55 Pages Posted: 1 Nov 2016 Last revised: 27 Jul 2017
Date Written: March 30, 2016
Encompassing questions of cultural heritage and border demarcation, the temple complex of Preah Vihear has grown as a symbol of identity and self-direction in both Thailand and Cambodia. A 2013 International Court of Justice interpretation (of a 1962 decision) set the stage for cooperative management of the site, but political struggles and an ASEAN dispute resolution framework which is more rhetorical than realistic have stalled the process. Greater economic cooperation between the nations, including creation of a maritime Joint Development Area in the Gulf of Thailand, may serve as a model for constructive engagement. The paper examines the conflict's historical background, analyzes the ICJ decision through legal and cultural lenses, explores the impact of nationalist political rhetoric on public opinion, and posits new approaches to conflict management and bi-lateral engagement.
Keywords: Preah Vihear, Thailand, Cambodia, ASEAN, International Court of Justice, Cultural Heritage, Dispute Resolution, Maritime Law, Gulf of Thailand
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