Friday, 27 June 2008

Cambodians fear loss of sovereignty

By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation
Published on June 27, 2008

A group of Cambodians have accused their government of losing rights to sovereignty over the area surrounding Preah Vihear in dealing with Thailand to try to get World Heritage status for the temple.

The group known as the Cambodia Watchdog Council International said in a statement that Phnom Penh was "tricked" into limiting its right to use only 30 metres from the ruined structure of the Preah Vihear to apply for a World Heritage listing.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 to put the Preah Vihear under Cambodia's sovereignty in accordance with the Siam-Franco treaty in 1904 and 1907 - as well as the French-made map.

"The map, which has been kept at The Hague, indicated clearly that the area [considered by Thailand as the overlapping area] belongs to Cambodia," the statement said.

"Taking only the temple and its limited foundation area is a loss of our territory to Thailand," it said.

"Thailand has never dared to put the case to the World Court for clarification of the boundary, but wanted to take over the temple and shut down our economic opportunities from tourism at the site," it said.

The group demanded the Cambodian government recall the new map and insisted it use the original one for the application.

The Bangkok office of Unesco has said it would forward the request, which was supported by more than 3,000 signatures by Thai people, to the Unesco head office in Paris.

The Thai Foreign Ministry is worried the fierce debate in Thailand, both in Parliament and street protests, could cause misunderstanding and hurt relations with Cambodia.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat said the ministry had launched a white paper to answer all questions over the deal with Cambodia on the Preah Vihear. The paper can be downloaded from the ministry's website.

The negative reaction began after the opposition Democrat Party launched a censure motion against Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama, accusing him of recognising Cambodia's sovereignty over the foundations of the temple.

The ICJ ruled that Cambodia had sovereignty over the temple but never ruled on the foundation area, according to opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Noppadon said the Cabinet in 1962 followed the ICJ's ruing and handed the ruined temple with 250,000 square metres of its foundations to Cambodia.

As long as Phnom Penh included only that part for World Heritage listing, it had nothing to do with Thai sovereignty, he said.

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