Thai officials on Wednesday released to the public Cambodia’s proposal to list Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site in a bid to quiet thousands of protesters accusing the government in Bangkok of conceding land to Cambodia, media reported Thursday.
About 5,000 protesters rallied Wednesday outside the Thai Foreign Affairs Ministry calling for the government to release the proposal, which the Thai Cabinet endorsed Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.
The Cambodian government announced Thursday that it would hold a press conference to release its proposal, but later pushed the conference back to Monday citing scheduling delays, Council of Ministers adviser Pen Nguon said by telephone.
The proposal map, which was posted on the Thai Foreign Affairs Ministry’s Web site on Thursday, shows a jagged border line hewing around Preah Vihear temple.
Royal Thai Survey Department chief Lieutenant General Daen Michuat said the temple demarcation is between 3 and 30 meters from the border and does not encroach on Thai land, The Bangkok Post reported Thursday.
Pen Nguon, however, said Cambodia’s proposal map only places a 30-meter buffer perimeter zone around the temple and that the agreed-upon map does not demarcate either countries’ borders.
“What we are doing here is the [World Heritage Site] inscription. We are not discussing anything other than that,” Pen Nguon said. “Regardless who says what, we are not talking about the border,” he added.
Pen Nguon also said the Thai Cabinet’s endorsement of the proposal was the final hurdle before Preah Vihear could be listed as a World Heritage Site.
“Everything is resolved in the sense that we will have the temple of Preah Vihear inscribed at the 32nd session of the World Heritage Committee meeting in 2008 in Quebec, Canada. I have no doubt,” he added.
The World Heritage Committee last year delayed Cambodia’s bid because Thailand wanted joint-inscription, Pen Nguon said, but now Thailand has agreed to Cambodia’s proposal to list the temple alone as a World Heritage Site.
“We’ve been working a lot of days, a lot of months, a lot of hours, and we come to this point, and in a couple of days it should be good,” he said.
Pen Nguon said the temple, built in the 11th and 12th centuries, symbolizes the beginning of the Khmer Empire’s golden period.
“It’s the pride of Cambodians and the pride of our nation,” he said.
Cambodian researcher and political scientist RM Jennar said Thursday that the protests in Bangkok over Preah Vihear reveal the tension between Cambodia’s inscription bid and Thailand’s past ownership claims.
“It’s not new that the Thai government and the Thai people did not like the 1962 decision,” he said, referring to the International Court of Justice’s 1962 ruling that Preah Vihear belonged to Cambodia and not Thailand.
“It took years before they recognized the decision, and it’s clear it’s still an issue,” Jennar said, adding that the 1962 ruling symbolizes a defeat for Thailand at the ICJ.
Thai Embassy Deputy Defense Attache Nopphorn Vudhironarit said all he’d heard of the protest in Bangkok over Preah Vihear was what he had read in the newspaper.
(Additional reporting by Eang Mengleng)