Thailand To Join Int’l Preah Vihear Committee

Cambodia and Thailand reached an agreement on how to proceed with getting Preah Vihear temple inscribed on the World Heritage List during a three-day visit by a Thai delegation, officials said.

On Aug 15, Manaspas Xuto, chairman of Thailand’s special task force on Cambodia’s effort to get Preah Vihear on the list, led a delegation that held talks with Cabinet Minister Sok An, according to government and Thai Embassy statements.

Perched atop a cliff on the Cam­bodian-Thai border, Preah Vihear temple was denied a spot on the Heritage List during a July meeting of the World Heritage Committee in Christchurch, New Zealand, in part because of objections by Thai­land. The committee—whose secretariat is handled by the UN Edu­cational, Scientific and Cultural Organization—did agree “in principle” that the temple, long a site of contention between the two countries, should be on the list. But the committee requested that Cam­bodia first develop a management plan for the site.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said the government had ruled out Thai requests for a bilateral plan, and that the plan will be developed by an international coordinating committee. “We don’t limit ourselves to a bilateral management with the Thais,” he said.

But Thailand accepted an invitation to join the future ICC-Preah Vihear, and countries including the US, India, France and China have expressed interest, Phay Siphan added. Culture Ministry Secretary of State Chuch Phoeurn said more than 20 countries are interested in the project. Sok An estimates at $2 million the cost of just preparing the plan’s progress report to be submitted to the World Heritage Committee in February, Chuch Phoeurn said.

According to a statement re­leased by the Council of Ministers Monday, Thailand agreed that “the physical work of restoration…will be undertaken only within the framework of international cooperation and after the inscription of…Preah Vihear in the World Heritage List.”

Chanturont Chaiyakam, first secretary at the Thai Embassy, said that these conditions did not reflect the Thai position on the matter, but that they had agreed to them nonetheless.

Thailand is concerned about the temple being put on the list be­cause of its border location, he said. “The Cambodian side can do it by itself, but it’d be better to do it with our cooperation,” he added.

Phay Siphan said Monday that though the temple is contained en­tirely within Cambodia, the government wanted to address Thailand’s concerns in the interest of maintaining an amicable relationship between the countries. “We need Thai[land] as our friend…. We need cooperation,” he said.


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