Sunday, 21 June 2009

Preah Vihear appeal 'targets UN, not Cambodia'

The Nation
Published on June 21, 2009

Thailand's objection to the listing of Preah Vihear as a World Heritage site is directed at the World Heritage Committee and Unesco and not at Cambodia, Foreign Affairs Minister Kasit Piromya said yesterday.

He said Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti, who will attend next week's World Heritage Committee meeting as an observer, would brief the panel's chairman beforehand regarding Thailand's objection to unilateral listing of the temple, which sits on the border between the two countries.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told reporters yesterday that soldiers would be ready to defend their territory again if necessary.

"Cambodia welcomes Thailand militarily, diplomatically, internationally or through peaceful negotiations," Hor Namhong said. "[Border fighting] has happened twice ... If they want to send their troops to Cambodia a third time, they are welcome to," he said.

"I hear the Thai second in command on the border has put his troops on alert, and I'd like to tell him that Cambodian soldiers are on alert too," Hor Namhong added.

The World Heritage Committee is part of the United Nations' Educa-tional, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).

"This issue is between Thailand and the World Heritage Committee and Unesco, and not between Thailand and Cambodia," said Kasit, noting that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva had said that Cambodia was not involved.

Kasit declined to say whether the Thai action would affect the decision last year to register Cambodia's unilateral listing of the Hindu temple because it was up to the committee and Thailand was attending not as a member but as observer.

He said the meeting also had other matters on its agenda and might also act on Thailand's proposal of other historical sites for World Heritage status.

Abhisit said yesterday that Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban would meet Cambo-dian Prime Minister Hun Sen next week in order to clarify Thailand's objection to the listing of the Preah Vihear Temple ruins as a World Heritage Site.

Abhisit said that he did not expect conflict between the two countries to worsen. The Cambodian leader last week expressed "deep regret" after Thailand announced its intention to ask the World Heritage Committee in Seville, Spain, next week to review last year's decision.

Hun Sen said the issue had not been raised when Abhisit met him in Phnom Penh last week.

The Thai premier, however, expressed hope yesterday that after meeting Suthep in Cambodia Hun Sen would better understand Thailand's stance.

"I haven't talked to [Hun Sen] or the Cambodian ambassador, but I do not think this will worsen the situation and believe the discussion will clarify the matter," Abhisit said.

Suthep is also expected to discuss with Hun Sen the Thai-Cambodian demarcation of overlapping sea areas during his visit to Phnom Penh, according to Abhisit.

Unesco approved Cambodia's application for Preah Vihear to be designated a World Heritage site last July. The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia, but armed clashes have since then occurred periodically near the temple, especially in a 4.6-square-kilometre disputed area.

No comments: