February 28, 2011
Koichiro Matsuura, the special envoy of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) arrived here on Sunday for talks on measures to safeguard Preah Vihear temple, the World Heritage site.
At Phnom Penh International Airport, he was welcomed by Chuch Phoeun, secretary of state of the Cambodian Ministry of Cultures and Fine Arts.
Matsuura, a former director-general of UNESCO (1999-2009) and a former Chair of the World Heritage Committee, was named by Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO, on Feb. 11 as the special envoy to mediate the issue of Preah Vihear temple following a series of deadly clashes on Feb. 4-7 between Cambodian and Thai troops over the disputed border area around the temple.
During the three-day visit, Matsuura will meet with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Minister of the Council of Ministers Sok An on safeguarding the World Heritage site, and seek ways to mitigate border tension, Chuch Phoeun told reporters at the airport.
He will also be granted a royal audience by King Norodom Sihamoni on Tuesday.
"Cambodia will present to him about the serious damages of Preah Vihear temple," Chuch Phoeun said. "I evaluated that up to 70-80 percent of the temple was damaged even though the temple did not collapse, but 414 shells of mortar and artillery had fallen on the temple," he said.
Chuch Phoeun said that Matsuura's plan to visit the temple was cancelled.
"His plan to visit Preah Vihear temple has been postponed until the arrival of (ceasefire) observers from Indonesia at first," he said.
Preah Vihear Temple was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2008.