Two contentious issues are in focus today in Thailand. After over a week of street protests of all political colors, the Senate will debate on the controversial amnesty bill this morning starting at 10am, while later today at 4pm the International Courts of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, the Netherlands, will deliver its ruling on the territorial dispute between Thailand and Cambodia around the ancient Hindu temple Preah Vihear, a UNESCO World Heritage site. We’ll have rolling coverage of both events throughout the day:
+++All times are local Bangkok time (GMT +7)+++
23.40h: This concludes our Siam Voices live blog after nearly 15 hours covering what on an eventful day in Thailand. Thank you very much for reading today and keep following us here at Asian Correspondent or on Twitter @SiamVoices, @AsCorrespondent and @Saksith. Good Night everybody!
23.30h: A short analysis of an eventful day by Siam Voices head writer Saksith Saiyasombut:
On the surface, a lot of tension has been diffused today with the decisions in Bangkok and The Hague but we still have not seen the end of it.
The ICJ’s ruling confused most people at first – so much so that initial reactions were sparse – but it became clear that we’re back where we started at the original 1962 ruling, since the ICJ only ruled on a little piece of land next to the Preah Vihear temple in favor of Cambodia. That means the rest of the disputed 4.6 sqkm area is still up for debate and both countries are told to work it out. In a way, it is a ruling that many could live with (expect for the Thai ultra-nationalists who have rejected anything from the ICJ before already) and it is up to Phnom Penh and Bangkok to calmly dissect the ruling and come up with a solution together – the failure to do so was why both countries ended up at the ICJ in the first place.
The Senate’s unanimous decision to strike down the amnesty bill was to be expected and that was supposed to be the end of it, as the government and ruling Pheu Thai Party have hopefully learned from the backlash of last week. However, with their initial reason to protest now gone, the opposition Democrat Party and their street protests have moved their campaign beyond just the amnesty bill. Suthep Thuagsuban and other Democrat MPs have resigned from their positions as lawmakers and called for a nationwide three-day strike beginning Wednesday in a clear, antagonizing shift now to topple the Yingluck government. It remains to be seen if they can keep the momentum going and how many will really heed Suthep’s call to leave work or school for the deafeningly noisy “civil disobedience” or if this escalation, lacking a clear definition what victory for them would look like, could ultimately backfire on the Democrats.
22.46h: After a long 12 hours in the senate and the bill rejected as expected, this is what’s going to happen next: according to Section 148 of the Constitution, the bill or a similar one cannot be resubmitted for 180 days. The crucial question is, will the ruling Pheu Thai Party try that again in one form or another?
22.42h: #BREAKING: Thai Senate unanimously strikes down controversial amnesty bill with 141 votes.
22.37h: The senate just wrapped up its deliberation and will proceed to voting – technicality inquires by some senators notwithstanding.
21.08h: The senate is still deliberating the amnesty bill, if every speaker got his say (and only during his own allotted speech time) today, we might actually even get on with the vote later tonight.
19.55h: It’s been a big day in Thailand and it’s not over yet. This sweeping analysis from Kaewmala of the past week up to and including today’s Preah Vihear ruling puts this month’s events in perspective. This is a long read, but well worth the time: Thailand’s amnesty fallout: Hubris, hatred and hidden agendas
19.48h: More on Suthep’s call for a strike here from Bangkok Pundit: Democrats call for nationwide civil disobedience and strike for November 13-15
19.29h: A short TV address by prime minister Yingluck just ended, in which she lauded the work of the Thai legal team in The Hague and explained the verdict. Also, she states the situation at the border is calm and the armed forces have the situation under control and insisted that Thailand and Cambodia are friends and will find a bilateral solution together, before concluding that her government is doing its best for the people and the sovereignty of the country. PM Yingluck made no mention of Suthep’s call for a national strike (see below).
19.22h: PM Yingluck is addressing the nation on TV now.
19.05h: Bangkok Pundit on the ICJ’s Preah Vihear ruling: ICJ issues Preah Vihear ruling gives mild victory to Cambodia, but neither side will be completely happy (or upset)
18.55h: In a campaign of “civil disobedience”, Suthep calls for a national strike on November 13-15 in a push that now apparently wants to see the government ousted, rather than only the amnesty bill being repealed. Furthermore, they call for people to “refuse pay taxes”, “blow their whistles whenever they spot the PM or government members” and “put up Thai flags everywhere”.
18.32h: Meanwhile on the stage of the anti-government protests led by the opposition Democrat Party, former deputy prime minister and former deputy party leader Suthep Thuagsuban – after ambitiously declaring “preliminary victory” and accusing parliament and the national assembly to be “enslaved” by “slaves” – he announced his resignation as MP along with 9 other MPs, as rumored earlier today.
18.30h: Prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra is expected to address the nation within the next hour:
— Wichatorn Wongphan (@Pai_NTV) November 11, 2013
18.00h: The ICJ has now published the verdict online (link to PDF), important is paragraph 98:
98. From the reasoning in the 1962 Judgment, seen in the light of the pleadings in the original proceedings, it appears that the limits of the promontory of Preah Vihear, to the south of the Annex I map line, consist of natural features. To the east, south and south-west, the promontory drops in a steep escarpment to the Cambodian plain. The Parties were in agreement in 1962 that this escarpment, and the land at its foot, were under Cambodian sovereignty in any event.
To the west and north-west, the land drops in a slope, less steep than the escarpment but nonetheless pronounced, into the valley which separates Preah Vihear from the neighbouring hill of Phnom Trap, a valley which itself drops away in the south to the Cambodian plain (see paragraph 89 above). For the reasons already given (see paragraphs 92-97 above), the Court considers that Phnom Trap lay outside the disputed area and the 1962 Judgment did not address the question whether it was located in Thai or Cambodian territory. Accordingly, the Court considers that the promontory of Preah Vihear ends at the foot of the hill of Phnom Trap, that is to say: where the ground begins to rise from the valley.
In the north, the limit of the promontory is the Annex I map line, from a point to the north-east of the Temple where that line abuts the escarpment to a point in the north-west where the ground begins to rise from the valley, at the foot of the hill of Phnom Trap.
The Court considers that the second operative paragraph of the 1962 Judgment required Thailand to withdraw from the whole territory of the promontory, thus defined, to Thai territory any Thai personnel stationed on that promontory.
“Ruling: Request for Interpretation of the Judgement of 15 June 1962 in the Case Concerning the Temple of Preah Vihear (Cambodia v. Thailand)“, International Court of Justice, November 11, 2013
17.41h: No official reactions yet from both Bangkok or Phnom Phen as we all have probably to go through the ICJ ruling. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra will address the nation on TV later this evening.
— กระทรวงการต่างประเทศ (@MFAThai) November 11, 2013
17.17h: Quick recap: while there was no question the Preah Vihear temple itself belongs to Cambodia, the 4.6 sqkm area around it claimed by Thailand was the point of contention. In the ICJ ruling today, the promontory (a high point of land with a cliff that directly leads into water), belongs to Cambodia, while the rest of the disputed area is still unresolved and should be subject for talks between both countries, as Thailand has to pull out all its troops from the area.
The ICJ has ruled on area of only about 1000 square metres, made no ruling on the rest that Thailand already occupies. @preahvihear
— Tom Metcalfe (@atommetc) November 11, 2013
BBC map showing disputed ground in Yellow. ICJ ruled small triangle at bottom is Cambodian. Rest stays with Thailand. http://t.co/ZrBwJfJBKI
— Tom Metcalfe (@atommetc) November 11, 2013
— ThaiPBS (@ThaiPBS) November 11, 2013
— anna holligan (@annaholligan) November 11, 2013
16.55h: #BREAKING: ICJ unanimously finds that Cambodia has sovereignty over the Preah Vihear promontory, orders Thai troops to pull out of area.
16.42h: ICJ: “The Preah Vihear stands on clearly defined geographical features,” but “rejects Cambodian claim that nearby Phnum Trap hill is part of Preah Vihear promontory,” in the original 1962 ruling.
16.20h: The judges have pointed out three main point on contentions: 1) dispute whether or not demarcated line on Annex 1 map in the 1962 judgement constitutes the border, 2) a related dispute concerning the meaning of “vicinity of Cambodian territory” in 1962 verdict and 3) regarding Thailand’s obligations of placement of personnel at the border. The court accepted Cambodia’s request to interpret the 1962 ruling and has jurisdiction over the case.
16.10h: Our own Bangkok Pundit has this ahead of the ICJ ruling:NIDA and Suan Dusit Polls show political problems for the government over the ICJ decision
16.00h: Almost on time, the judges have arrived in the ICJ court room and will read out the ruling now. There’s also a live-stream here.
15.55h: The past few years have seen tensions between Thailand and Cambodia that also escalated into brief firefights of its armed forces, claiming over 40 lives on both sides of the border. The last clash took place in 2011 and bilateral relations between the two countries have considerably improved ever since the government of Yingluck Shinawatra came to power, partly since her brother Thaksin is reportedly close to Cambodian leader Hun Sen. Nevertheless, it has always been a sore spot for ultra-nationalists on the Thai side, as they have constantly spewed anti-Cambodia vitriole and will also likely reject a negative outcome today.
15.46h: Yup, that’s gonna take a while – we’re in for a long day…!
80 more senators to speak today (10 minutes each), so 12 hours left. #amnesty
— Juarawee K. (Lina) (@Juarawee) November 11, 2013
15.45h: About 15 minutes until the scheduled start of the ICJ ruling on the Thai-Cambodian territorial dispute. In a nutshell, the case is NOT about the sovereignty of the ancient Hindu temple Preah Vihear (which has been awarded to Cambodia in 1962), but about the 4.6 square-kilometer area around it.
15.35h: In an effort to put more pressure on the government, 6 MPs of the opposition Democrat Party including former deputy prime minister Suthep Thuagsuban are “preparing to resign as MP” in order to fulfill their roles in the protest, as being MPs could legally endanger not only them personally, but also the whole party.
ด่วน!!! 6สส. ปชป. เตรียมลาออกจากการเป็น สส.เพื่อยกระดับการชุมนุมเย็นนี้ รวมสุเทพด้วย #nationchannel
— somroutai (@jin_nation) November 11, 2013
15.27h: Couple of observations on the morning so far before we move on to the ICJ ruling: most senators were busy justifying their absence on Friday, saying that the rescheduling was rushed and the responsibility unfairly thrown into their laps, until the finally they started deliberating on the amnesty bill itself. Meanwhile, opposition protesters have continued today and it seems that the general focus is slowly shifting from the amnesty bill towards toppling the government now.
Also, the press conference of Sondhi Limthongkul earlier this morning shows that despite the mass resignation of its leaders in August, the ultra-nationalist yellow shirts and its anti-democratic ideology is well alive.
14.55h: The International Court of Justice will start reading its ruling on the Thailand-Cambodia Preah Vihear dispute in a little over an hour at 4pm. This is a closed session so we will not know the outcome until the official announcement after the reading. You’ll read it here as soon as we know.
14.32h: We’re now hearing that PM Yingluck will hold a press conference at 6.40pm today to give reaction to the ICJ’s Preah Vihear ruling, rather than 7.30pm as previously announced. At this stage it seems unlikely that the Senate debate will be concluded by then.
It is becoming obvious now that these are not really anti-amnesty marches in #Bangkok – it’s more about toppling the government.
— Richard Barrow (@RichardBarrow) November 11, 2013
14.02h: And on they march:
13.48h: We’re hearing the Senate decision on the amnesty bill could be as late as 10pm. PM Yingluck is due to speak this evening. Protests are set to continue through the afternoon and evening. In the other big issue of the day, the ICJ is due to announce its ruling on the disputed land on the Thailand-Cambodia border near the Preah Vihear temple at 4pm Thai time.
13.35h: Democrat Party leader arrives at the Aree BTS station protest in Bangkok:
13:24h: Crowds at the the anti-amnesty protest at Aree BTS station in Bangkok:
13.20h: More familiar rhetoric from PAD leader Sondhi Limthongkul:
12.10h: According to our own Bangkok Pundit, there are four possible outcomes from today’s Senate debate on the amnesty bill (full analysis here):
1. The Senate lacks a quorum again before voting on the Amnesty Bill occurs.
2. The Senate agrees with the Amnesty Bill
3. The Senate completely disagrees with the Amnesty Bill and rejects it (it is withheld and sent back to the House)
4. The Senate amends the Amnesty Bill and it is sent back to the House.
11.40h: A timely reminder that, while this is a big day for Thailand, a massive tragedy is unfolding not so far away:
11.29h: The Senate debate is well under way now. AP reports that “nearly 7,000 police officers were deployed Monday around the Parliament and the prime minister’s office where thousands of protesters continued to rally against the bill.”
11.16h: PAD leaders Sondhi and Chamlong are giving a press conference this morning. So far, the message is that the ICJ Preah Vihear ruling is their main focus and that PAD will not respect the outcome:
10.58h: Anti-amnesty protesters on the streets of Bangkok today:
10.20h: A lot of protests expected in Bangkok today, with some already under way:
On Monday there will be a number of different protest marches across #Bangkok including activities at Ratchadamnoen. Potentially a big day.
— Richard Barrow (@RichardBarrow) November 11, 2013
10.00h: Some good analysis here from Bangkok Pundit ahead of this afternoon’s ruling in The Hague: Will Thailand comply with the ICJ’s Preah Vihear decision?
9.30h: Good morning, welcome to the Siam Voices live-blog of today’s events!
We begin this morning with the Senate debate on the controversial amnesty bill at 10am, that sparked numerous protests in Bangkok last week, as the government and the ruling Pheu Thai Party managed to upset almost everyone with its far-reaching amendments. After Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra signaled a retreat from further pushing the bill, it was up to the Senate to decide on its fate last Friday.
However, in a shameless act of political maneuvering, the opposition boycotted the session (with some standing in front of the door refusing to enter) so that the Senate failed to reach a quorum in order to strike down the bill they hate so much, only to have it postponed to the originally intended date this morning – which of course coincides with the ICJ Preah Vihear ruling.