Government Not Interested in Joint Preah Vihear Management

Cambodia is not considering any Thai requests to jointly manage Preah Vihear temple and there is no “overlapping” border issue impinging on the site being listed as a World Heritage Site, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Monday.

Thailand has not submitted a formal request to jointly manage Preah Vihear temple, and until one is received the government will not consider such a proposal, Phay Siphan said, adding that there is “no overlapping claims” area at Preah Vihear temple.

While reports in leading Thai newspapers The Nation and Bangkok Post persistently refer to disagreements over border territory at Preah Vihear, Thai officials are openly backing Cambo­dia’s bid to list the temple as a World Heritage Site, Phay Siphan said in an interview.

“We don’t take what [Thai newspapers] say seriously,” he said.

Yet, as the July meeting in Quebec, Canada, of the World Heritage Committee nears—during which Cambodia is expected to successfully appeal for Preah Vihear’s addition to the list—messages in the Thai media appear to be at odds with Phnom Penh’s viewpoint.

On Monday, Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama was quoted in The Nation as saying that Thailand was “negotiating to have a joint administration run the temple and its grounds.”

“We’ll have a joint statement on the issue soon,” he was quoted as saying.

In Tuesday’s Bangkok Post, the foreign minister was reported to have said that the Thai government will ask Unesco, which serves as the secretariat of the World Heritage Committee, to postpone inscription of Preah Vihear unless Cambodia agrees to joint management of the disputed area around the temple, which covers 4.6 sq km.

Contacted on Tuesday, Phay Si­phan said that joint management im­plies joint ownership of Preah Vihear, and that is not being considered.

“The temple is under Cambo­dian sovereignty—period,” he said.

Unesco Culture Program Specialist Philippe Delanghe also said on Tuesday that there is no overlapping claims area at Preah Vihear temple, nor will it be an issue at the 32nd Session of the World Heritage Committee in July.

“The 1962 decision is very clear,” Delanghe said by telephone, referencing the Inter­national Court of Justice decision that ruled that the temple was within Cambodian territory.

Unesco last year asked Cam­bodia to write a progress report on the planned management of the temple, which was completed in January with assistance from France, the US, India and Belgium, which sent experts to visit Preah Vihear and help Cambodia compile the report, Delanghe said.

Cambodia submitted the progress report on time and also responded to several follow-up questions from the committee, he said.

“That should basically close the file. Now it’s up to the committee to decide whether the site is acceptable for listing,” Delanghe said.

“Everything has been done. All the requirements have been completed. I normally wouldn’t see any problem. It should be positive,” he said.

Furthermore, Thailand, which is not a member of the World Heritage Committee, does not have the capability to derail the inscription process, he added.

“The Cambodians have delivered what they had to deliver,” he said.

Phay Siphan said Monday that he is confident the temple will gain World Heritage Com­mittee recognition in July, as Cambodia met all requirements set in July by the 21-nation group.

The issue of disputed territory at the temple is a separate issue that will be resolved by a joint Land Boundary Commission formed in 2000 and comprised of 20 Cam­bodians and 15 Thais, Phay Siphan said.

Their task is to demarcate the border according to the 1962 ICJ ruling, he said.

“The JBC will solve the boundary problem. We are just putting [the temple] on the World Her­itage List.”

According to a joint news release issued after Thai foreign affairs permanent secretary Vira­sakdi Futrakul met with Cabinet Minister Sok An on May 6, both officials agreed that the temple inscription is “without prejudice to the demarcation work of the joint Land Boundary Commission between Thailand and Cambodia.”

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