A Thai professor’s comments that Preah Vihear temple should be returned to Thailand will be the subject of an upcoming meeting between a cultural commission and its Thai counterpart.
The chairman of the commission stressed that its message would be peaceful and that the professor’s comments last month were his personal opinions.
“We will not do anything that will affect the ties between the two countries,” said Sorn Samnang, chairman of the Cambodian Commission for Joint Research on Culture with Thailand. “Polite strategy will be used to solve this matter.”
The trip, planned for this month, comes after Prasidh Ekabutr of a Bangkok university told reporters that Preah Vihear temple should be offered as compensation for the damage done to the Thai Embassy and Thai-owned businesses in the Jan 29, 2003, riots. The riots were fueled by false reports that a Thai actress had claimed Angkor Wat as rightfully Thai.
The professor’s comments were publicized in December in local media, prompting the Thai Embassy to appeal to the Cambodian government to curb the reports for fear they could incite violence.
The Bangkok trip is a break from regularly scheduled meetings between the commission and a parallel Thai group formed in October. Both commissions formed in response to the riots to bridge shared enmity over territorial and cultural disputes.
The two commissions have already agreed to jointly review the national histories taught in the two countries’ schools and publicized in tourist guides.
Speaking at a press conference Wednesday at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, Sorn Samnang defended Cambodia’s claim to the Preah Vihear temple and said he was sensitive to popular concern over the professor’s comments.
“I saw and noticed that Cambodian people are sorrowed and afraid of the idea of losing the Preah Vihear temple,” he said. “But Thais cannot have our temple because we have enough documents.”
The temple, which sits on a mountaintop along the Thai border, was awarded to Cambodia by an international court in 1963.