By Piyanart Srivalo
Published on February 26, 2011
Abhisit expects border conflict with Cambodia to be settled by mid 2011
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) yesterday listened but did not make clear whether it agreed with Thailand's request to have a further delay of consideration of Preah Vihear's management plan.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said after a meeting with Unesco's special envoy Koichiro Matsuura that Thailand would settle the conflict with Cambodia over the Hindu temple of Preah Vihear's inscription before the World Heritage Committee's next meeting in Bahrain in the middle of this year.
The two countries were at a loggerhead during a World Heritage Committee's meeting in Brazil last year over the temple's management. Phnom Penh submitted the plan since January last year but the committee then agreed with Thailand's idea to delay its consideration until next meeting.
Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister Sok An agreed to have a meeting on the matter with Thai Natural Resource and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti but the date has not yet been fixed, Abhisit said.
The Preah Vihear was inscribed as a world heritage site since 2008 but Thailand opposed Cambodia's management plan due to the fear of losing sovereignty over the areas adjacent to the temple.
The temple, ruled by the International Court of Justice in 1962, is situated in the territory under sovereignty of Cambodia but Thailand argued that the surrounding areas belong to Thailand and would never allow activities related to the world heritage to take place there.
Ideally, Abhisit said he did not want the temple management's plan to be implemented before the settlement of boundary conflict between Thailand and Cambodia. Boundary demarcation at the areas near Preah Vihear would not be finished soon.
The Unesco dispatched Matsuura as a special envoy to Bangkok and Phnom Penh between February 25 and March 1 to consult with the two countries after a plan to send a team to inspect the temple was rejected by Thailand.
The temple was damaged after a border skirmish between Thai and Cambodia troops on February 47. But it was unclear how serious the damage was. Matsuura will not be visiting the Preah Vihear temple.
Thailand blamed the Unesco and the World Heritage Committee for igniting the conflict between the two countries by listing the temple as the world heritage.
The management plan, if approved by the world heritage committee, would make the problem be more complicated, Abhisit said.
Unesco's Derector Irina Bokova has voiced concern over clashes around the temple in recent weeks, stressing that "the world's cultural heritage should never be a cause for conflict."
Matsuura admitted during a meeting with Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya that the implement of the Preah Vihear management plan would be more difficult if Thailand and Cambodia were still in conflict, according to the foreign ministry's spokesman Thani Thongpakdi.
"But there is no conclusion by now whether the Preah Vihear's management should be further delayed," he said.
Thailand tried to convince the Unesco by explaining to Matsuura that the situation at the border is still tense and the inscription would crate more tension, he said.