Thursday, 18 June 2009

We still oppose heritage listing : Thai PM

By Piyanart Srivalo
Janjira Pongrai
The Nation
Published on June 18, 2009

Suwit to fly to Spain next week to ask world body to review decision

Thailand will seek review of World Heritage status giving to Hindu Temple of Preah Vihear, even though this status was decided last year, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday.

It would maintain its objection to the Unesco's World Heritage listing of the temple, he said.

His cabinet endorsed the stance and assigned Suwit Khunkitti, Minister for Natural Resources and the Environment, to ask the World Heritage Committee to review its decision when it met in its its 33rd meeting in Spain's Seville next week, he said.

The listing of Preah Vihear, announced last July, was contrary to Unesco's regulations and spirit since it had created a dispute between Thailand and Cambodia, he said.

Thailand withdrew its support for the listing last year when the Democrat Party, then in opposition, feared a loss of Thai sovereignty over areas near the temple.

The party and protesters from the People's Alliance for Democracy forced the Samak Sundaravej government to withdraw support for Cambodia's proposal for World Heritage listing of the historic cliff-top temple.

Noppadon Pattama was forced to step down as foreign minister after the World Heritage committee backed Cambodia's bid to list Preah Vihear. The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the Hindu temple belonged to Cambodia, but Thailand claims some areas adjacent to the temple.

The two countries have yet to complete border demarcation near the site.

Cambodia delayed its plan to protect and develop the temple as required by the World Heritage Committee due to military clashes with Thailand at the site, which flared at the time of the Cambodian election and erupted again during domestic crises in Thailand last October and in April.

The World Heritage body suggested last year that Phnom Penh should invite Thailand to join a seven member International Coordinating Committee (ICC) to manage the site, but Thailand is reluctant to join as it does not want to recognise Cambodia's rights to the temple.

Thailand's objection would not jeopardise relations with Cambodia as the government could explain its stance, Abhisit said. He did not discuss the matter with his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen when visiting Phnom Penh last week but hoped Cambodia would understand Thailand.

"We didn't mention Cambodia but we did disagree with the World Heritage Committee/Unesco and their decision," Abhisit said.

Adul Wichiancharoen, adviser to Thailand's National World Heritage Committee, said the government's objection could not lead to a change in the listing of Preah Vihear.

However he agreed with the government maintaining its objection and keeping a close eye on Cambodian moves to prevent it annexing of areas claimed by Thailand.

Adul said Thailand's plan to offer Pha Mo I Daeng and twin stupas downhill from the Preah Vihear to be jointly listed as World Heritage sites, would be strongly opposed by Cambodia

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