Cambodia, Thailand: Row over Ownership of UNESCO Site Continues

Updated On: Jun 22, 2009

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit has decided to request of the UNESCO's World Heritage Committee to review last year's decision to register Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site belonging to Cambodia. His decision has sparked angry responses from Cambodia’s leadership.

He plans to do so when the body convenes its annual meeting later this month in Spain, and will also request that the temple be registered jointly as a World Heritage Site by Thailand and Cambodia.

Cambodian officials see Ahbisit’s decision as a threat. Hor Namhong, deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation said of the Thai PM’s decision: "It is big mistake and [a] serious one that were [sic] created by Thai leaders," he said, adding that they have spoken without thought.

"If they want to have armed conflict for [the] third time, we welcome," he said.

Following the Cambodian response, Thailand has not backed down.

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya stated, "This is a matter between Thailand and the World Heritage Committee and Unesco, not between Thailand and Cambodia", and argued that it was the unilateral listing of the World Heritage site that was unfair to Thailand.

Abhisit said that he will send Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thuagsuban to Cambodia next week, in an attempt to clarify Thailand's objection to the Preah Vihear listing to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Cambodia and Thailand have been at loggerheads over the land around the Preah Vihear temple for decades, but tensions spilled over into violence last July when the temple was granted UN World Heritage status under Cambodian control

Although the World Court ruled in 1962 that it belonged to Cambodia, the most accessible entrance to the ancient Khmer temple with its crumbling stone staircases and elegant carvings is in northeastern Thailand.

AFP, Thai PM hits back in Cambodia border temple, 21 June 2009,  http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5g7SBqvLhaAL1GHbfsEKJz...

Bangkok Post, Deputy PM gets Hun Sen task, 21 June 2009,  http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/18852/deputy-pm-gets-hun-sen-task

MCOT.net, PM Abhisit: Deputy PM Suthep to meet Cambodian PM Hun Sen next week, 20 June 2009, http://enews.mcot.net/view.php?id=10423

Xinhua News, Cambodia FM: Thailand threatens Cambodia and UNESCO over Preah Vihear temple 20 June 2009, http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-06/20/content_11573424.htm

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