Saturday, 26 February 2011

Unesco special envoy 'supports Thai stance'

Cambodia's temple plan may have to be put off

Published: 26/02/2011

Unesco says it will be difficult to consider Cambodia's proposed world heritage management plan for the Preah Vihear temple given the current tense situation, the Thai Foreign Ministry says.

Unesco special envoy Koichiro Matsuura meets Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva at Government House yesterday to discuss the border tensions between Thailand and Cambodia. CHANAT KATANYA

The Unesco special envoy on the Preah Vihear issue, Koichiro Matsuura, who is also a former Unesco director-general, yesterday met Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya at Government House to hear about the problems between Thailand and Cambodia.

Thailand was his first leg before he heads to Cambodia tomorrow.

Thani Thongphakdee, Foreign Ministry spokesman, said Mr Matsuura understood that the problems over the Preah Vihear temple stemmed from its listing as a world heritage site given that the border's demarcation was still pending. Mr Matsuura was quoted as saying that he also admitted that in the current situation, it was difficult to move forward with the Preah Vihear management plan proposed by Cambodia.

He would review what Unesco should do next in order to ease tensions, said Mr Thani, adding that any decision making will depend on the World Heritage Committee (WHC).

The management plan is scheduled to be placed for WHC consideration at its annual meeting in Bahrain in June.

Thailand is trying to explain to Unesco that as long as the border demarcation dispute has not been solved through the Joint Boundary Committee (JBC), the organisation should delay considering the matter.

Mr Kasit also explained the progress of mechanisms which would help resolve the border problems including the JBC, General Border Committee and Regional Border Committee.

"We also told the special envoy about our progress there and that Thailand stands ready to tackle all the pending problems with Cambodia," said the spokesman. The minister also told Mr Matsuura about the history of the Preah Vihear problem that stems from both countries using different maps. Thailand has stuck to an international principle of using a watershed as a border line but Cambodia has relied on a map made by France.

Mr Matsuura was quoted as saying that he understood what was happening as he had read Mr Kasit's statement delivered to the UN Security Council on Feb 14 as well as what happened at the meeting of Asean foreign ministers in Jakarta earlier this week, which will lead to observers from the Indonesian military being stationed at the Thai-Cambodian border.

"We also emphasised the matter that Cambodian soldiers used the temple as a military base," said Mr Thani, confirming that Mr Matsuura has no plans to visit the Preah Vihear temple as earlier indicated by Cambodia.

"Unesco also supported the Thai proposal to review the history [regarding the border issues] as this led to the conflict in the region because it involved too much from the colonial era," he said.

Mr Abhisit said after the talk with the Unesco special envoy that the organisation was likely to support the use of bilateral mechanisms to resolve the conflict. "The Unesco envoy expressed his intention that he doesn't want to build up more problems in a situation of tension," said Mr Abhisit. He said he would like to tackle the border problems before consideration of the management plan.

Unesco also supported Thailand's plan to invite Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An to talk about the Preah Vihear world heritage problem.

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