Cambodia Seeks Unesco Aid in Temple Dispute

Cambodia on Saturday asked Unesco’s head office in Paris to in-tervene to prevent further damage to Preah Vihear temple after clashes Friday led to damaged stone-work on a staircase and a razed market at the base of the temple.

“The temple is facing serious risks,” Cabinet Minister Sok An said in the letter penned Saturday.                         “This is a solemn and urgent ap-peal to protect the cultural heritage of the temple that is under the banner of Unesco,” Sok An wrote, ad-ding, “The Royal Government waits for your intervention in order to protect an irreplaceable, priceless diamond of World Heritage.”

During the fighting, bullets and shrapnel chipped the 900-year-old temple and the Cambodian market at the foot of the temple stairs has been reduced to little more than ash and scorched sheet metal.

Preah Vihear temple was listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site in July 2008, flaring tensions with Thailand over the disputed land around the site. The rising tension escalated to the first armed clashes in October last year when the temple suffered its first superficial damage as a rifle launched a grenade from the Thai front lines.

Phay Siphan, Council of Minist-ers spokesman, said by telephone Monday that the government will supply evidence of the damage at the temple to the executive board council of Unesco within a few days.

Unesco serves as the secretariat for the World Heritage Com-mittee, the body responsible for selecting World Heritage sites.

“It is our obligation to report this to Unesco World Heritage…seeking the protection of Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site,” Phay Siphan said.

Several calls to Unesco officials in Phnom Penh went unanswered Monday, and e-mailed requests for comment received no response.

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