Embassy Mum Over Thai Newspaper Reports of Preah Vihear Row

The Thai Embassy declined to comment Jan 25 on two newspaper reports quoting senior Thai military officials who warned of diplomatic repercussions if Cam­bodia continued with its bid to have the Preah Vihear temple inscribed on the World Heritage List.

The Bangkok Post reported Jan 25 that Thai Defense Ministry spokesman Lieutenant-General Pichsanu Puchakarn had accused Cambodia of ignoring Thailand’s suggestion that both countries jointly propose Preah Vihear’s listing as a heritage site.

The Nation also reported Jan 25 that the Thai military had “condemned Cambodia for creating ‘false evidence’ in order to claim the hi­storic site for its unilateral benefit.”

On Jan 24, Cambodia’s De­pu­ty Prime Minister Sok An an­nounced at a meeting in Phnom Penh that Preah Vihear temple would be added to the Heritage List in June by the World Heritage Committee, which will convene in Canada this year.

Preah Vihear temple was denied a spot on the Heritage List during a July 2007 meeting of the World Heritage Committee in New Zea­land, in part because of objections by Thailand.

The heritage committee—whose se­cretariat is handled by Unesco—agreed in principle that the temple, long a site of contention between the two countries, should be on the list.

In 1962 the International Court of Justice ruled that Preah Vihear temple was situated within Cam­bo­dia’s borders and that Thailand was obligated to withdraw any military or police forces in its vicinity.

The Nation also reported Jan 25 that the Thai Defense Ministry had de­manded that the Thai Foreign Mi­nistry lodge an official protest with Phnom Penh.

Chaturont Chaiyakam, first secretary for the Thai Embassy, de­clined to comment on the newspaper articles, but said that a statement would be issued in response to the reports.

Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kan­harith said by e-mail Jan 25 that listing Preah Vihear as a World Heri­tage Site will not effect border de­marcation with Thailand or economic activities in the area.

“The Thai Ministry of Defense should ask advice from [the] Thai Foreign Ministry to check on the agreement between the two countries on border demarcation,” Khieu Kanharith wrote.

Khieu Kanharith said he had no in­formation regarding reports in a Thai newspaper that Cambodian soldiers had been deployed along the border.

“We do not want to have any conflict with Thailand, nor any country, for this would be very harmful to our development,” he added.

Preah Vihear provincial RCAF Deputy Commander Som Sithol said Jan 25 that everything was as usual at the border.

“The forces are still the same,” he said by telephone, adding that there had been no noticeable in­crease in Thai forces along the border.

Foreign Ministry Secretary of State Kao Kim Hourn referred questions about the news reports to Secretary of State Long Visalo, who could not be reached.

(Ad­di­tional reporting by Prak Chan Thul and Neou Vannarin)


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