Two-year anniversary of Preah Vihear inscription marks some progress and some delay

As the Cambodian government prepared to mark the second anniversary of Preah Vihear temple’s inscription as a World Heritage Site with a large celebration at the remote northwestern temple today, officials said this week that Cambodia has yet to establish an international coordinating committee for the temple–one of the first requests from the UN cultural body upon the site’s inscription.

At the time of Preah Vihear’s inscription on July 7, 2008, Unesco requested that Cambodia create an international committee by February 2009 to help guide the temple’s development and maintenance, and asked that Thailand be included in this body. But the formation of this coordinating committee for Preah Vihear has been stalled by the ongoing border conflict with Thailand over land near the temple, according to Teruo Jinnai, the director of Unesco in Cambodia.

“Cambodia is in the process of trying to invite Thailand to sit on the Preah Vihear ICC along with seven other countries but the conflict makes this a delicate thing,” Mr Jinnai said yesterday, adding that he did not know when the ICC would actually be created.

Lim Bun Hok, national programming officer for Unesco in Cambodia, said that Cambodia hoped to invite the US, Belgium, China, France, Japan and India to sit on the committee, although he too did not know when this would happen.

Ek Tha, spokesman for the press and quick reaction unit at the Council of Ministers, said he did not know when the ICC would be established.

Cambodia has, however, met a Unesco request to submit a long-term management plan for the temple by Feb 1. Although details of the Cambodian plan have not yet been made public, Culture Ministry Secretary of State Chuch Phoeurn, who chairs of the Preah Vihear Authority, said that it was created based on 13 recommendations from a group of experts in archeology and landscaping, among other fields. The plan is slated for discussion at a World Heritage Committee meeting in Brazil at the end of this month, he said.

In addition to the Unesco requests, Cambodia has also spent about $710,000 annually for the past three years on restoration, safety and maintenance projects at the temple, according to Mr Phoeurn.

These include placing more than 30 security guards at the site, restoring eight ancient reservoirs at the foot of Preah Vihear mountain and clearing plant growth that could damage temple walls, said Hang Sorth, director-general of the Preah Vihear Authority.

But despite the improvements, the government still needs funds to continue and is asking foreign donors to contribute, with little success so far, said Mr Tha of the Council of Ministers.

“We [have been] seeking the donations from donors as soon as the temple was listed in July 2008,” Mr Tha said yesterday. “So far the donors are interested in assisting Cambodia to preserve the Preah Vihear Temple, but up to this hour we have not received any financial or technical [support] from donors…. We continue our lobbying.”

(Additional reporting by Andrew Burmon)


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