Thais Offer to Fix Preah Vihear, Build Road

Thai government officials have offered to help repair Preah Vi­hear temple and build a road from the mountain-top temple to the Thai border, the governor of Preah Vihear province said Thursday.

The road would extend about

6 km from the temple to the Ta Thav checkpoint, a new border crossing on the Dangrek mountain range, governor Preap Tan said. The offer for help stemmed from an unofficial Thai meeting held Jan 25 on Thai soil, about 100 meters from the temple, he said.

“The Thais just requested to us about this and our officials told them that they will send a report to the government for consideration,” Preap Tan said. “If they want to do like this we appreciate it very much, but the higher leaders have the right to decide.”

Preap Tan said he had not yet sent a formal letter to the government concerning the offer.

Songchai Chaipatiyut, second secretary at the Thai Embassy, on Thursday said the embassy has no specific information about the proposed temple repairs and new road. But, he said, talks are ongoing in a joint Thai-Cambo­dian committee, formed after a joint cabinet meeting held last May in Siem Reap, on how to develop the Preah Vihear temple area to promote tourism.

The committee expects to meet again in the upcoming weeks, he said.

Michel Tranet, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Culture, welcomed news of the Thai offer.

“If we have no funds to repair [the temple] we should allow them to do it,” he said, pointing out that the Indian and Japanese governments are also helping to repair Cambodian temples.

But other officials in Preah Vi­hear province were suspicious of the Thai offer, reflecting the mistrust developed through centuries of Thai occupation and disputes over ownership of the temple. In 1962, an international court decided the temple belonged to Cam­bodia and not Thailand.

“It is hard to accept their re­quest because their purpose is suspicious,” said a Preah Vihear official, on condition of ano­nymity.

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