Washington, DC Thursday, 10 February 2011
In 2009, Olabiyi Babalola Joseph Yai, president of executive council of UNESCO, toured Preah Vihear temple to see some damage from clash with Thailand, which started on Oct. 15, 2008, as part of his one-week visit in Cambodia.
“Heritage should unite people and serve as an instrument of dialogue and mutual understanding and not of conflict.”
Unesco will send a mission to investigate damages to the World Heritage Preah Vihear temple, following clashes over the weekend that damaged part of the structure.
Unesco Director-General Irina Bokova called for continued calm between troops stationed near the border temple.
“I intend to send a mission to the area as soon as possible to assess the state of the temple," she said in a statement. “Heritage should unite people and serve as an instrument of dialogue and mutual understanding and not of conflict.”
The Unesco mission follows a letter sent to the UN organization by Cambodian Cabinet Minister Sok An, who asked for “urgent intervention” and protection of the temple.
Thai officials have said Cambodian troops are positioned near the 11th-Century temple and that any damage incurred to the structure came from retaliatory firing on those positions.
A Thai government spokesman said Unesco should seek permission from Thailand before entering the area.
“It might not be appropriate for Unesco to visit the temple at this moment, as the situation along the Thai-Cambodian border remains tense and such a visit could further complicate the situation,” the spokesman, Thani Thongphakdi, said in a statement.
Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan said Cambodia has also requested the UN to send a protection force to the temple area along with the Unesco mission.