The Hague: The UN`s highest court on Monday ordered troops from both Thailand and Cambodia to immediately withdraw military forces from disputed areas around a World Heritage temple straddling their border.
The court drew a "provisional demilitarized zone" around the 1,000-year-old Preah Vihear temple that would push Thai troops back from positions they have long occupied and would see Cambodian armed forces leave the temple`s immediate vicinity.
At least 20 people have died since 2008 in clashes between the two countries that continued as late as last April, when military commanders agreed to an oral ceasefire.
By a vote of 11-5, the judges of the International Court of Justice went beyond Cambodia`s request to order Thai troops out of the area, and imposed restrictions on both armies and police forces.
It said it decided to intercede to avoid the risk of more clashes and further damage to the ancient Hindu shrine.
It also called on the two nations to allow officers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations into the area to observe the ceasefire, which was called for by the UN Security Council last February.
The court ruled in 1962 that Preah Vihear is in Cambodian territory, a judgment Thailand does not dispute.
But the earlier ruling failed to draw definitive boundaries. Cambodia went to the UN tribunal for clarifications on "the meaning and scope" of the ruling. Thailand argued that the court has no need to take further action.