Sunday, 20 February 2011

Thailand calls on UNESCO to postpone temple's listing

via CAAI

Feb 20, 2011

Bangkok - Thailand has asked the United Nations to postpone the World Heritage listing process of a millenial temple on its common border with Cambodia until a territorial dispute has been settled, the prime minister said Sunday.

Abhisit Vejjajiva in his weekly television broadcast said he made the request by telephone to Irina Bokova, director-general of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

'I think UNESCO now understands our position on the problems with Phra Viharn becoming a heritage site,' Abhisit said.

UNESCO will reportedly send a representative to Bangkok and Phnom Penh soon to hear both sides of the row over the 11th-century Hindu temple - called Preah Vihear by the Cambodians and Phra Viharn by the Thais - which broke out into a border clash on February 4-7 that claimed at least 10 lives.

Thailand has blamed UNESCO for escalating a territorial dispute over land adjacent to the temple when it decided to declare Preah Vihear a World Heritage Site in mid-2008, despite Thai objections.

Thailand is petitioning UNESCO to shelve plans to approve Cambodia's management plan for the site at a World Heritage Committee meeting in June, until the two sides have settled their joint clams to land north of the temple.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia but stopped short of determining the border demarcation in the contested area.

Both countries claim a 4.6-square-kilometre plot of land near the temple, which has been included under Cambodia's management plan for the World Heritage Committee.

Both sides have beefed up their forces in the vicinity of the temple, 450 kilometres north-east of Bangkok, since July 2008, leading to several border skirmishes over the past two and a half years.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen called this month's clash a 'war' and called for UN Security Council intervention in the issue.

The council listened to the Thai and Cambodian foreign ministers on February 14 in New York and urged a ceasefire and to resolve the matter through talks in the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

ASEAN foreign ministers will meet in Jakarta on Tuesday to address the conflict, but the association's role in a settlement process remains unclear.

Cambodia wants ASEAN to play a mediating role while Thailand insists that organization should merely facilitate bilateral talks.

'ASEAN will be a facilitator and witness to the talks, but will not interfere,' Abhisit said Sunday.

Thai and Cambodian troops have agreed to a temporary ceasefire on the border until the ASEAN meeting in Jakarta.

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