Friday, 11 February 2011

PM urges Unesco to end chaos

World heritage listing 'cause of the problem'

Published: 11/02/2011

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is calling on Unesco to help defuse the border conflict between Thailand and Cambodia by delisting the Preah Vihear temple as a world heritage site and scrapping a Cambodian management plan for the temple.

Thai troops dig in near the Preah Vihear temple in Si Sa Ket province. JETJARASNA RANONG

Mr Abhisit said the two sides had come under pressure because of the listing and the management plan and this was the source of the problem.

It was therefore up to Unesco to ease the pressure stemming from the management plan, which is due to be tabled with the Unesco World Heritage Committee in June.

"I believe if Unesco manages to defuse tensions, the two sides would agree to hold talks without pressure. The two countries want their people on the border to live peacefully," Mr Abhisit said.

Mr Abhisit responded yesterday to a statement by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen that he did not want to enter into talks with Thailand over the issue and the conflict was a "real war", not an armed clash, by saying Cambodia wanted to intensify the tension because it was under pressure from its management plan for the Preah Vihear temple.

The prime minister brushed aside calls for intervention by a third country, particularly France, to resolve the border row. The conflict must be ended through bilateral mechanisms, he said.

There is no need for France to intervene as Asean is ready to play a role in supporting efforts to hold talks to end the conflict, Mr Abhisit said, adding he was confident the United Nations also wanted the two sides to hold negotiations.

Mr Abhisit stressed Thailand needed to ensure that the facts were presented to the international community.

He believed the international community would support bilateral efforts by the two countries to resolve the conflict once the facts were clarified.

Mr Abhisit said photos of Preah Vihear being used by Cambodian troops to mount attacks on Thailand would be of advantage to Thailand. The photos proved that Cambodia had failed to comply with its intention of listing the temple as a world heritage site.

Mr Abhisit said Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti and the head of the Thai-Cambodia Joint Boundary Commission (JBC), Asda Jayanama, would fly to Paris today to explain the border situation to Unesco director-general Irina Bokova.

Thailand insists Unesco should not consider the plan until a solution to the border conflict is found.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban yesterday denied that Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya accused Russia, India and China of taking sides with Cambodia in the conflict with Thailand. Mr Kasit made the statement at a seminar on the Thai-Cambodia conflict on Wednesday.

Mr Suthep said Mr Kasit might have talked about how divided a United Nations Security Council meeting could be in their support for Thailand and Cambodia.

Mr Suwit said yesterday the Foreign Affairs Ministry had told the Thai ambassador to France, as head of Thailand's permanent delegation to Unesco, to explain the facts to Unesco authorities.

He said he was also preparing information to explain to the Unesco director-general the adverse repercussions the listing of Preah Vihear as a world heritage site had had on relations between Thailand and Cambodia.

Mr Suwit said the listing of the temple was not in line with the requirements of the World Heritage Convention in that the border land where the temple is located is not clearly demarcated and no proper management plan is ready.

Most importantly, the Hindu temple is on an overlapping border area claimed by the two countries and the listing should have been given approval by both Thailand and Cambodia, Mr Suwit said. He also said the Unesco plan to send a mission to inspect the Preah Vihear temple must receive consent from Thailand.

Mr Suwit warned that Unesco could be seen as lacking neutrality by not obtaining Thailand's consent.

Second Army chief Thawatchai Samutsakhon yesterday said the border situation had improved since soldiers from the two countries had held their fire.

He said the JBC was expected to meet shortly for talks to find a solution to the border row and that villagers who fled their villages to escape fighting should be able to return home in the next few days.

The government yesterday issued a statement promising that it would not commit any acts of aggression and do its utmost to exercise restraint.

It said the government would take measures to help people affected by the clashes and to rebuild and repair their damaged properties.

The government said it would explain its intention to resolve the conflict peacefully at a UNSC meeting on Monday.

The government will ensure the border conflict does not affect the good relations between Thais and Cambodians.

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