Gov’t To Move Ahead With P Vihear Plans

The government said yesterday that a Unesco World Heritage Committee “draft decision” on Preah Vihear temple confirmed that Cambodia was responsible for moving ahead with the development of its management plan for the iconic structure.

While declining to release the World Heritage Committee’s draft decision yesterday because it had not yet been officially published, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said the decision–signed by Thailand–included the acceptance of Cambodia’s previously submitted reports regarding its management of Preah Vihear temple.

The draft decision was signed by Cabinet Minister Sok An and Thai Natural Resource and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti on Friday.

Cambodia is one of 21 member-states present at a session of the World Heritage Committee which was to conclude in Brazil on Tuesday. Cambodia must submit annual updates to the committee showing what measures are being adopted to conserve Preah Vihear temple, officially named a heritage site in July 2008.

Mr Siphan said yesterday that the committee’s draft decision stated that Cambodia’s annual progress report would be considered at next year’s World Heritage Committee meeting in Bahrain.

“Cambodia will move ahead with [the development of] its management plan,” Mr Siphan said, adding that Thailand’s much publicized desire to jointly manage Preah Vihear temple was a publicity stunt.

“Despite the substantive coverage in the Thai media, there was no discussion of joint management [among members] in Brazil,” he said.

Officials at the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs could not be contacted yesterday but in a statement published on Saturday, the ministry said Thailand’s decision to sign the “draft decision” was “based on the understanding that it is without prejudice to Thailand’s boundary claims.”

World Heritage Committee President Juca Ferreira said in a speech to the committee on Friday that the draft decision was a step forward in bilateral relations between Cambodia and Thailand.

At the border near Preah Vihear, Major General Srey Dek, commander of the RCAF 3rd Division, said that more than 1,000 Thai troops were still deployed along the border.

“We are on alert,” he said. “If they come to our land we will fight, but if they don’t, then we won’t.”

(Additional reporting by Phorn Bopha)


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