Wednesday, 9 July 2008

WHC plan for Preah Vihear 'most unusual'

The Bangkok Post
Wednesday July 09, 2008

Listing can be changed later to bi-national

The decision by the World Heritage Committee (WHC) to appoint a committee of representatives from seven nations to look after the old Preah Vihear temple is "most unusual", a former chairman of the Thai World Heritage Committee said yesterday.

Although Thailand would be a member of the committee, it would lose its sovereign right to manage property on Thai territory, Adul Wichiencharoen said.

"This is an unusual practice, for the World Heritage Committee to set up the special task force to manage the ancient Hindu temple.

"I have never seen this before."

He said his successor as Thai World Heritage Committee chairman, Pongpol Adireksan, "should oppose the plan, otherwise Thailand will lose its right to manage the property in Thai territory".

Mr Pongpol went to the meeting in Quebec City and lobbied unsuccessfully for the WHC to postpone a decision on the Cambodian application for the temple to be listed as a Work Heritage site.

Mr Adul said there was little chance of Thailand getting the surroundings of Preah Vihear temple located on Thai soil listed as world heritage because they were only the secondary component of the temple area.

Opponents of the government on the Preah Vihear issue said they will seek clarification of the decision to list the site from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), which acts as secretariat to the WHC.

The group said politicians would have to take responsibility if Thailand lost territory as a result of the unilateral listing by the Cambodian government.

The group included M.L. Walwipha Charoonroj of Thammasat University's Thai Khadi Studies Institute, Gen Pathompong Kesornsuk from the Supreme Command, Tulya Sitthisomwong of Chulalongkorn University's medical science faculty and Thepmontri Limpaphayom, an independent scholar.

Democrat party and opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva was disappointed with the committee's decision, saying the best result would be a joint listing of the site by the two countries.

The government must reserve the right to make sure its sovereignty is not be infringed upon and to ensure the correct demarcation of the border, he said.

Ambassador Francesco Caruso, special adviser to the director general of Unesco, told AFP in Quebec that the listing was not meant to prejudice settlement of the border dispute.

It could be amended in the future to a bi-national listing of the temple and its contested landscape.

"It could become a mixed natural and architectural site, the door is open. The Cambodians negotiated a listing that opens the door to such future harmony. Thais are demanding it now."

Cambodians' jubilation over the listing of the temple as a World Heritage site were in stark contrast to the subdued mood and disappointment on the Thai side of the border.

Members of the Thammayatra group camping at Preah Vihear national park in Si Sa Ket's Kantharalak district, were crestfallen on hearing the news. Arunsak Ocharos, president of the People's Assembly in Si Sa Ket, said he will call on the army chief Gen Anupong Paojinda to evict Cambodians living in the disputed overlapping area.

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