Gov’t Criticizes Thai Proposal To Jointly Register Preah Vihear

A government official on Wed­nesday criticized a reported statement by Thai Prime Minister Ab­hisit Vejjajiva saying that he would request that Unesco’s World Heri­tage Committee review last year’s decision to register Preah Vi­hear temple as a World Heritage Site when the body convenes its annual meeting later this month in Spain.

Thai newspaper The Bangkok Post reported Wednesday that Mr Abhisit would request that the temple be registered jointly as a World Heritage site by Thailand and Cambodia.

“I want to see the temple a peaceful area so that the people of the two countries can jointly benefit from this site of high historical im­portance,” Mr Abhisit is quoted as saying.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said the proposal is a pipe dream.

“We have already dismissed what the Thais expect, es­pecially bilateral managing of Preah Vi­hear,” he said. “If [the Thais] want peace, they should keep the situation surrounding Preah Vihear temple as before July 2008,” Mr Siphan said referring to July 8, 2008, when the WHC unanimously approved the inscription of the Khmer temple on the World Heri­tage list.

Shortly after the inscription, Thailand moved its troops into the area, which sparked the current conflict, he added.

The Bangkok Post also reported that Virachai Plasai, head of the Foreign Ministry’s treaties and legal affairs department, had told Unesco’s chief of information and knowledge management unit, Clive Wing, that UN officials and experts wishing to visit the Preah Vihear temple would now have to ask permission from Thai authorities in Bangkok.

In response, Mr Siphan said by telephone that UN officials and tourists could choose for themselves how and when to visit the Cam­bodian temple and are not required to seek any permission from a foreign country. “[Thailand] should not keep Preah Vihear temple as a hostage. Entering or returning of the tour­ists…is a Cambodian obligation,” he said.

Officials from the Thai Embassy could not be reached for comment, and the Thai Foreign Ministry in Bangkok did not respond to e-mail­ed questions.

(Additional reporting by Cajsa Collin)



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