Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Govt to ask for Council of State's advice on temple

The Bangkok Post
Wednesday July 02, 2008

Coalition urges delay in support for Cambodia

The government decided yesterday to seek the Council of State's legal advice over the Administrative Court's temporary injunction against the joint communique with Cambodia before making any move on Preah Vihear temple.

The decision came as coalition allies met to pressure the People Power party (PPP) to delay the decision to back the Cambodian government's World Heritage application, a cabinet source said.

The court ruled on Saturday against endorsement of the joint communique with Cambodia supporting Phnom Penh's push to list the Preah Vihear temple as a new World Heritage site.

The joint communique, signed by Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama and Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, has a map attached to it identifying the agreed boundaries of the temple site.

Approval of the map led to cabinet endorsement of the joint communique.

The Democrat party and other critics fiercely opposed the government over the issue, warning of its implications on future talks with Cambodia to settle the borderline permanently.

They proposed a joint nomination as a way out, as the Preah Vihear temple is on the Cambodian border but related ruins are in the disputed area between Kantharalak district of Si Sa Ket and Cambodia's Preah Vihear province.

The court's ruling was high on the agenda at yesterday's cabinet meeting.

Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Somchai Wongsawat, who chaired the meeting as Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej is still on a visit to China, said the cabinet accepted the court's ruling and needed help from the state's legal advisory agency.

''The cabinet ordered the Council of State to see what the government's next step should be,'' including if it will appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court to have the ruling reversed, he said.

The Foreign Ministry has been assigned to explain the decision to Cambodia, Unesco, the Thai embassy to Canada and the 21 members of the World Heritage Committee.

The committee will start its nine-day meeting in Quebec today . The Preah Vihear temple issue is expected to be discussed within days.

Before the cabinet meeting, key members of the coalition led by Deputy Prime Minister Sanan Kachornprasart from Chart Thai, Industry Minister Suwit Khunkitti from Puea Pandin, Agriculture Minister Somsak Prissananantakul also from Chart Thai, Deputy Finance Minister Pradit Pataraprasit from Ruamjaithai Chart Pattana and Labour Minister Uraiwan Thienthong from Pracharaj discussed a common strategy.

They demanded the PPP-led government delay support for Cambodia until all legal hurdles involving the Preah Vihear temple are cleared up.

The issue was fiercely debated for an hour in the cabinet meeting, including over whether or not the government should immediately appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court or turn to seek legal advice from the Council of State, the cabinet source said.

Cabinet ministers favouring an immediate appeal included PM's Office Minister Chusak Sirinil, to make it clear if the Administrative Court had authority to interfere in government policy.

But Maj-Gen Sanan strongly opposed the idea and warned that the safest way was to wait for suggestions by legal experts from the Council of State.

He even questioned the transparency of the issue saying he did not see the cabinet resolution until the foreign minister had signed the joint communique.

Council of State secretary-general Pornthip Jara said the agency will call a meeting to consider the matter.

The prime minister said in Beijing that he had already notified Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen of the court's injunction.

''When the court grants an injunction, we have to respect it,'' he told the Thai News Agency.

Treaties and Legal Affairs Department director-general Krit Kraichitti said the Foreign Ministry will not send the court injunction to Unesco until the Council of State makes a recommendation to the government.


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