A general view of the start of proceedings at a court room at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, Monday, May 30, 2011. Thailand and Cambodia faced off at the United Nations' highest court Monday, in the latest move to settle a decades-old battle for control of a disputed border region that has erupted into deadly military clashes.
Cambodia is asking the International Court of Justice to order Thailand to withdraw troops and halt military activity around a temple at the center of the dispute between the Southeast Asian neighbors.
The conflict involves small patches of land along the border that have been disputed for more than half a century.
Fighting has repeatedly broken out since 2008, when Cambodia's 11th-century Preah Vihear temple was given U.N. World Heritage status over Thailand's objections.
Talks mediated by Indonesia's president earlier between the two countries' prime ministers failed to hammer out a lasting cease-fire.
Fighting around the temple has cost about 20 lives and sent tens of thousands fleeing. Cambodia is asking for an "interpretation" of a 1962 ruling by the court that 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 dispute has stirred nationalist sentiment on both sides of the border. 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 July 3 elections.
Cambodia said in April that a written explanation of the 1962 judgment "could then serve as a basis for a final resolution of this dispute through negotiation or any other peaceful means."