Monday, 7 July 2008

Thai demonstrators demand that Cambodia give back Preah Vihear, Siem Reap and Battambang provinces: Phay Siphan

Preah Vihear listing likely

Monday, 07 July 2008
Xinhua & The Mekong Times

Cambodia’s attempt to list Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site during the current UNESCO session in Canada’s Quebec City is expected to be successful, according to Thailand’s World Heritage Committee.

The prediction comes as Thai protestors at the closed border point nearest the cliff top temple have been demanding that Cambodia “return” Preah Vihear, Siem Reap, and Battambang provinces to Thailand, a Cambodian official said yesterday.

Chairman of the Thai World Heritage Committee, Pongpol Adireksarn, is currently attending the UNESCO session. He said that over half of the 21 World Heritage Committee members had told him informally that they support the Cambodian government’s registration of the ancient temple as a World Heritage Site as it has “untiringly pursued the issue on a constant basis,” the official Thai News Agency reported yesterday.

He quoted committee members as telling him that Phnom Penh has also invited them to visit the temple, in contrast to vacillating Thailand, whose “policy was uncertain,” the report said.

The issue expected to be resolved by the World Heritage Committee on Sunday night.

The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), an international NGO dedicated to conserving the world’s historic monuments and sites, had distributed reports to the committee, saying that the listing of the temple alone as a World Heritage Site would pose no problem, said Pongpol.

But the ICOMOS recommended that both Cambodia and Thailand should jointly propose that the temple’s surrounding area should also be included as a World Heritage Site.

Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama, attending the session as an observer, is expected to oppose the listing and ask for a delay because of the Thai Administrative Court’s temporary injunction against the June 17 cabinet approval of the joint communiqué he signed with Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An.

Noppadon said in Quebec City that he would prepare a letter and lobby the committee to delay the listing of the temple.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Cambodian Council of Ministers, was optimistic Preah Vihear will be listed by UNESCO, despite Thailand’s withdrawal of support, as the UN body accepted it in principal in 2007.

UNESCO has no jurisdiction to resolve border issues but is obliged to conserve important heritage sites, he underlined, adding that the listing of the temple would be the “just” decision.

He added that, while the situation at the temple is calm, around 20 demonstrators on the Thai side of the border remain, bellowing that Thailand has lost 1 km of land to Cambodia in a deal between leaders.

The demonstrators have also been roaring demands that Cambodia “give back Preah Vihear, Siem Reap and Battambang provinces,” said Phay Siphan, adding that the border point remains closed.

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