Despite objections from Thailand, the World Heritage Committee will likely inscribe the Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site, the chairman of Thailand’s world heritage committee told media Sunday.
Pongpol Adireksarn said on Thai radio Sunday that more than half of the 21-nation committee supported Cambodia’s bid to list the border-hugging temple as a Heritage Site, according to the Thai News Agency.
As sites are inscribed by a majority vote and each of the 21 members gets one vote, Pongpol said he expected the temple to be given Heritage Site status.
Cambodia had “untiringly pursued the issue on a constant basis,” the Thai News Agency quoted Pongpol as saying.
The World Heritage Committee, meeting in Quebec, Canada, was expected to take up the issue Sunday or today. Quebec is 11 hours behind Phnom Penh.
Many in Thailand fear that if the temple is inscribed, it could weaken Thai claims to disputed territory in the vicinity of the temple. Pongpol’s assessment came a day after another wave of Thai demonstrators rallied at the border crossing near the temple, which was closed June 23 and will likely remain locked until after the national election, officials said.
While Thailand is not a voting member of the World Heritage Committee, the TNA reported Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama flew to Quebec on Saturday to request that the committee withhold inscription.
Whether Thailand will be given a speaking platform is up to the committee, Teruo Jinnai, Unesco representative in Cambodia, said in an e-mail. Unesco serves as the secretariat to the World Heritage Committee.
Jinnai said the committee is aware of the Thai Cabinet’s decision to withdraw support last Tuesday, days after the Thai Administrative Court issued an injunction suspending any official endorsement. He said it is not known how Thailand’s move will factor into the committee’s decision.
Council of Ministers adviser Pen Ngoeun said the Cambodian delegates in Quebec have met with many members of the 21-nation committee over the past few days and also over the past year to lobby for support.
He added, however, that he could not verify whether more than half of the 21-nation committee favored Cambodia’s bid.
China, the US and Canada each hold a place on the World Heritage Committee.
Canadian Embassy First Secretary Michael Rymek said Canada endorsed the World Heritage Committee’s 2007 decision that the Preah Vihear temple has “outstanding universal value.”
However, Canada would not finalize its position on nominations until it received all available information and heard all expert advisers, Rymek said by telephone Sunday.
Canadian officials met with the Cambodian delegation Friday to discuss the temple’s inscription, Rymek said, though he did not know the outcome.
The Chinese, US and Thai embassies declined to comment on whether they support Cambodia’s inscription bid.
Som Bopharath, deputy RCAF commander for Preah Vihear province, said about 120 Thai demonstrators protested Saturday near the temple, the second-largest number since demonstrators first appeared two weeks ago, prompting the border gate closure.
About 200 Thai police prevented them from approaching the border fence, Som Bopharath said.
Since the border closed, the governor of the neighboring Thai province of Si Sa Ket has made three requests for the gate to be reopened, said Preah Vihear National Authority Secretary-General Hang Soth. Those requests have been forwarded to Phnom Penh, he said.
Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Sunday the border remains closed indefinitely.
“No decision has been taken on that yet. Up to now, the border remains closed,” he said.
However, both Deputy National Police Commissioner Sok Phal and Preah Vihear Deputy Provincial Governor Long Sovann said Sunday it was likely the border at the temple will remain closed until after the July 27 national election.
“We are waiting for the decisions of senior government officials after the election,” Sok Phal said.