The World Heritage Committee has decided to not include the Preah Vihear temple on the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s list of World Heritage Sites, officials said June 29.
According to a statement released June 29 by Cambodia’s delegation to the annual World Heritage Committee meeting in New Zealand, the committee has “agreed in principle” that the Angkorian temple, which is perched on a cliff abutting the Thai border, should join the list, but not this year.
“The Committee has requested Cambodia to make further progress in developing an appropriate management plan,” the statement reads. “The Committee stated that such progress will enable the formal inscription [on the list] of the temple at its 32nd session in 2008.”
Unesco Country Representative Teruo Jinnai could not be reached for comment.
Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said that the decision by the committee to suspend inclusion of Preah Vihear temple for at least one more year was due to technical issues regarding zoning.
Cambodia must also convince the committee that it has the capacity to restore and preserve the temple, he added.
Thailand’s English-language press, however, claimed that the temple was not listed due to concerns raised by the Thai delegation to the meeting.
The Nation newspaper wrote June 29 that Thailand argued that the border had yet to be demarcated and a joint management plan for the area was still under discussion.
The Nation also claimed that the decision by the committee has put Thai Embassy officials in Phnom Penh on the alert for fear that the issue might be used to stir up anti-Thai sentiment.
In 2003, thousands of rioters ransacked the Thai Embassy and more than a dozen Thai-owned businesses in Phnom Penh after Prime Minister Hun Sen publicly denounced a Thai actress for remarks she allegedly made about Angkor Wat belonging to Thailand.
Khieu Kanharith said the government was not concerned about a repeat of the anti-Thai riots as Thailand supports the registration of the Preah Vihear temple on the heritage list.
“Unless people try to mislead the Cambodian people…it is not a problem,” he said.
Both the Bangkok Post and Nation newspapers quoted Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat as saying that “Thailand does not oppose the registration of Preah Vihear on Unesco’s list.”
Songchai Chaipatiyut, first secretary at the Thai Embassy, declined to comment on the issue.
SRP lawmaker Son Chhay said that Cambodia has the right to ask Unesco to list the temple without any involvement from Thailand.
“If Thailand wants or doesn’t want [the temple registered] it’s their problem,” he said.