A New Mandala reader has sent through these thoughts on two territorial disputes that appear to have been resolved:
The often frosty Thai-Cambodia border has experienced some international attention as UNESCO accepted Cambodia’s bid to have the Preah Vihear temple listed as a World Heritage site. Historically, Thailand has argued that the 4.6 km surrounding Preah Vihear has been Thai territory, but on 6 June 2008 this issue was resolved with Thailand having proposed that only Preah Vihear be listed and not the 4.6 km of disputed territory surrounding the temple, which Cambodia has accepted. However, that it has taken since 1962 to reach this agreement (even if there was a ferociously cold world championship chess game going on for a great deal of time) only serves to highlight the transience of sovereignty in Southeast Asia. My sceptical opinion is also fueled by some discussions on that border, where many locals claim that either they’d still like to be fighting each other (Cambodians and Thais) or that they don’t know where Thailand or Cambodia begin and end. The excellent Durham University Boundaries Research Unit alerted me to this and the next issue.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) recently ruled over a 28 year old border dispute between Singapore and Malaysia over the island Pulau Batu Puteh and the ‘Middle Rocks’. Both places are smaller than football pitches, never really harmed their bilateral relations and were used interchangeably over the past half century by the two nations yet it took 16 ICJ judges over 4 years to come to a decision about who had sovereignty when it would have been more cost effective to sell the islands to a well off loafer and send the judges to Cambodia on the money received from the sale?