Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Thai FM braces for no-confidence debate over historic temple

BANGKOK, June 17 (TNA) - Thailand's Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama said on Tuesday he is well prepared to clarify his position and actions regarding the Preah Vihear temple which the opposition Democrat Party would challenge in its no-confidence motion scheduled to be handed to House Speaker later Tuesday.

The Opposition earlier cast doubts regarding the new map of the historic temple, suggesting that the foreign minister might have compromised Thailand's national interests over the issue.

Brushing aside the Democrats concerns, Mr. Noppadon, one of the six ministers from the ruling People Power Party targeted by the Opposition in its current no-confidence move, told Modernine TV (Channel 9)'s morning news programme that the disputed and undemarcated 4.6-square kilometre area surrounding and adjacent to the temple complex itself is not included on the map which Cambodia is using in its application for Unesco (the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation) to register Preah Vihear temple as a new world heritage site.

The minister also emphasised that all details in the new map would be released after the World Heritage Committee meets in July to consider the matter.

Mr. Noppadon explained that he could not reveal what he described as "official secret information" now under joint consideration among the Royal Thai Survey Department, the Foregin Ministry and state agencies concerned.

The 21-nation committee is scheduled to hold its meeting in Quebec from July 2 to decide whether or not to grant the world heritage site status to the temple.

Historically, both Thailand and Cambodia have claimed the ancient Khmer-built Hindu temple complex astride the mutual border in Thailand's Si Sa Ket province in the northeast, but practical access is only possible from the Thai side.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia.

The Thai Cabinet on Tuesday endorsed the new map of Preah Vihear temple approved by the National Security Council (NSC) on Monday.

Meanwhile, Pipob Thongchai, a core leader of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), currently encamped on Rajdamneon Avenue on an extended demonstrattion calling on the government to resign, said the coalition's supporters will march to the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday to press for the Preah Vihear issue to be clarified to the public.

The PAD believes arrangements regarding the resolution of the two countries' dispute over the overlapping zone was linked to former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Mr. Pipob said. (TNA)

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