Work on Preah Vihear Has Just Begun: Unesco

Preah Vihear temple joined Ang­kor Wat on the World Heritage List on Tuesday, but Unesco officials say the work for Cambodia to manage the site and oversee its preservation has just begun, and should include cooperation with Thailand.

Giovanni Boccardi, Unesco’s Chief of Unit for East Asia and the Pacific, said issues to be addressed are stabilization of the temple structure; development of facilities for tourists that will not impact the site; continued demining; archeological excavation and the relocation of the market at the base of the temple’s steps, where an estimated 900 people live. Unesco won’t do all the work, Boc­cardi said.

“When a state party makes a commitment for the protection of a property, it doesn’t mean Unesco is going to take charge,” Boccardi said Tues­day by telephone from Quebec City, Canada, where the World Her­itage Committee is wrapping up its 32nd Session today.

Just as the Apsara Authority is the government agency managing Angkor park, Preah Vihear Na­tion­al Authority will act as the agency overseeing Preah Vihear temple and ensure that the management of the site adheres to Unes­co’s guidelines.

And just as the International Co­ordinating Committee of Angkor, co-chaired by France and Japan with Unesco as acting secretariat, organizes international assistance for Angkor, so now will a similar international committee need to be formed for the oversight of Preah Vihear, Boccardi said.

He added that, because Thai­land had also created a management plan for the temple, the World Her­itage Committee requested Tues­day that the two countries cooperate.

Council of Ministers adviser Pen Ngoeun said any decisions on the management of Preah Vihear temple must wait until Cabinet Minister Sok An returns from Quebec.

One of the government’s first priorities, Pen Ngoeun said, is organizing an international committee mirroring Angkor’s ICC, formed one year after the 1992 inscription.

Pen Ngoeun said he did not know what would become of the market at the steps to the temple.

“It is a discussion for Council of Ministers,” he said.

Council of Ministers spokes­man Phay Siphan said Cambo­dia’s first priorities for the temple are demarcating the inscribed area, reinforcing the temple structure and stationing guards to protect the stones and engravings.

Preah Vihear National Author­ity Secretary-General Hang Soth said Wednesday that most of the demining work around the temple was complete.

Another issue yet to be discussed is how to reach the temple, which, while a smooth car ride from the Thai side, is an arduous journey over potholed dirt roads in Cambodia. No bus companies go to the temple.

However, Phay Siphan claimed that from Siem Reap town the trip is a two-hour drive; from Phnom Penh, it’s about six hours if you travel at 100 km an hour, he said.

“It’s easy,” he added. “We don’t need a highway.”

Preah Vihear Deputy Provin­cial Governor Long Sovann said the construction of a paved road from Tbeng Meanchey to the mountain-top won’t be finished until 2012.

   (Additional reporting by Neou Vannarin)

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