Thai Minister Lobbies Head of Unesco Over Preah Vihear Plan

Thailand’s natural resources and environment minister was to meet with the head of the UN’s cultural agency in Paris today to raise Bangkok’s “concerns” with Cambodia’s management plan for Preah Vihear temple, according to Thai media.

The meeting in Paris today comes two days before the 21 member states of the UN’s World Heritage Committee-including Cambodia and Thailand-convene in Brazil for the committee’s annual meeting.

According to previous Thai news reports, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Thailand would attempt to block Cambodia’s plans for managing the 11th Century Preah Vihear temple, which is a Word Heritage Site.

According to an article in yesterday’s Bangkok Post, Minister Suwit Khunkitti would also meet in Paris with Irina Bokova, director-general of Unesco, to “‘create a better understand’ of Thailand’s position.”

“‘We would like to affirm our position that the buffer zone management plan should not be carried out until there is clarity over land demarcations,'” the Bangkok Post quotes Mr Suwit as saying.

The World Heritage Committee inscribed Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site two years ago. Although the International Court of Justice granted the site to Cambodia in 1962, Thailand disputes the ownership of 4.6 square km of territory around the temple.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for Cambodia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, said yesterday that he was untroubled by Thailand’s reported attempt to lobby Unesco ahead of the meeting.

“We keep working just like usual. We are not worried about Thailand,” he said, dismissing the effort as a political maneuver aimed at distracting Thais from domestic concerns.

“Thailand is trying to do this in its political interest,” he said. “When they have a problem in their country they turn to the border issue.”

The WHC has released neither an agenda for the Brazil meeting nor a copy of Cambodia’s management plan. Thai papers report that the plan includes the disputed 4.6 square km and will be raised for discussion.

Chuch Phoeung, secretary of state at the Culture Ministry and chair of the government’s Preah Vihear Authority, said the management plan does refer to the disputed land but calls for no work on the site yet “because we wait for the [Joint Border Commission] of the two countries” to resolve the issue.

Either way, Mr Phoeung said the management plan would not be up for debate at the meeting in Brazil.

Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn declined to comment yesterday.



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