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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Cambodia takes dispute with Thailand to UN court

Thai soldiers ride on a pickup truck to the Thai-Cambodian frontline in Surin province, northeastern Thailand, Saturday, April 30, 2011. Troops from Thailand and Cambodia exchanged fire at the countries' contested border again Saturday, marking the ninth straight day of clashes

By MIKE CORDER
Associated Press


Cambodia has asked the United Nations' highest court to order Thailand to withdraw troops and halt military activity around a temple at the center of a decades-old border dispute that has flared into deadly military clashes.

Fighting in recent weeks along the disputed border region in northeastern Thailand that surrounds the Preah Vihear temple has left 16 soldiers and one Thai civilian dead.

In a request filed April 28 and made available Tuesday on the court's website, Cambodia asked International Court of Justice judges to urgently deal with its request "because of the gravity of the situation."
Cambodia claims that according to a 1962 ruling by the court the temple is on its territory and warns that if the intervention request is rejected and clashes continue, "the damage to the Temple of Preah Vihear, as well as irremediable losses of life and human suffering ... would become worse."

The border dispute has stirred nationalist sentiment on both sides. But analysts say domestic politics may also be fueling the conflict, especially in Thailand, where the military that staged a coup in 2006 could be flexing its muscles ahead of elections due in June or July.

The conflict involves small swaths of land along the border that have been disputed for more than half a century. Including the latest fighting, clashes have broken out six times since 2008, when Cambodia's 11th-century Preah Vihear temple was given U.N. World Heritage status over Thailand's objections.

Analysts say the fighting is primarily being driven by domestic tensions within each country rather than tensions between them. Neither side appears to be trying to capture territory, and few believe the conflict will evolve into full-scale war.

The fighting forced tens of thousands of villagers on both sides of the border to flee their homes. Many of them returned this week from makeshift refugee camps as the latest skirmishes eased from artillery barrages to small arms exchanges.

Rulings by the court are supposed to be final and binding on parties.

Cambodia has formally applied for an "interpretation" - a written explanation - by the court of its 1962 judgment, and argued in its written application that the court's opinion "could then serve as a basis for a final resolution of this dispute through negotiation or any other peaceful means."
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International Court Expects Temple Hearing Soon

The International Court of Justice is likely to hold a hearing on the Preah Vihear temple issue in a matter of weeks, an official there told VOA Khmer Tuesday.

Cambodia has petitioned the court to re-interpret a 1962 decision that gave Preah Vihear temple to Cambodia but left both Thailand and Cambodia claiming adjacent land.

Cambodia hopes a hearing will clarify the decision, which officials here say should include the land. Both sides claim a 4.6-kilometer stretch of land near the temple.

The disputed land has been at the center of a military standoff since 2008 that has killed dozens of people in a series of skirmishes over the years, including the deadliest clashes over the last week and a half. At least 18 have died in fighting that began April 22.

On April 28, Cambodia filed a request to the international court to clarify its 1962 decision, requesting “urgent” action to protect Preah Vihear temple, as Cambodian and Thai troops exchanged rocket and artillery fire along the border.

Biris Heim, a spokesman for the International Court of Justice, said the court will now “fix a date with all parties” so that they can appear before the court with arguments.

“It will be an oral hearing, and it can be between a few days and a few weeks,” he said.

Both Cambodia and Thailand have been notified of the case, he said, but the court will not send investigators to the field.

“Parties will provide evidence,” he said. “The court can only make an interpretation by hearing from both sides.”

Thailand, meanwhile, has begun preparing a group of experts to respond to the court, according to Thai media.

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"Operation Death Match" Nets Carson/Incline Man

CARSON CITY, NV - When Lawrence Joseph Read, a former Carson City/Incline Village resident filed for a passport in Buenos Aires, Argentina and again in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, he became a suspect in "Operation Death Match." He tried to use a fraudulent Nevada Driver's License with a deceased man's name.

'Operation Death Match' is a Diplomatic Security Service program that compares passport applications with state death records, and now Read is going to prison for two years for identity theft.

According to the Attorney General for the District of Nevada, he was netted because he tried numerous times to use the name, date of birth and social security number of Michael Truman Hummel, who died in 1996.

Read used a Nevada driver's license with his own picture and an Incline Village address, but somehow it had Hummel's name. Read tried once in 2003 in Argentina and again in 2006 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. On the application in Cambodia, he listed his permanent address as Carson City, Nevada.

Under federal law, anyone who commits a crime at an American Embassy can be prosecuted by a federal judge in the area of their last-known address, which is the District of Nevada. On January 18th he pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated identity theft and on Monday he was sentenced to two years in prison.
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