Cabinet to discuss impact of quitting UN heritage site body

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BANGKOK, June 27 — Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Monday said he would discuss with the cabinet Tuesday the impact of Thailand’s withdrawal from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Convention.

Mr Abhisit said National Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti will report the issue to the cabinet and the agencies concerned will study the World Heritage Committee resolution on Cambodia’s management plan for Preah Vihear after Thailand quits the convention.

How the resolution will impact Thailand and what will be the next step of the procedure after Thailand leaves the convention will be considered, he said, adding that he would like the concerned agencies to prepare information for the next government (to be formed after the July 3 election) to handle the issue.

Mr Suwit, who headed the Thai delegation to the World Heritage Committee meeting in Paris, arrived in Bangkok early Monday. He announced on Saturday Thailand’s withdrawal from the World Heritage Convention following a decision by the agency’s secretariat to push ahead with consideration of Cambodia’s management plan for the Preah Vihear temple.

The premier lashed out at Noppadon Pattama, a legal adviser to ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and former foreign minister, who criticised his government of failing to secure support from other nations at the Paris meeting.

“Mr Noppadon should have realised that what he did in 2008 has caused us a big trouble that we have been trying to remedy it over the past three years by working against the consideration of the (temple) management plan in the overlapping area,” Mr Abhisit said. “Please do not forget that Thaksin was once a personal adviser of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.”

Mr Noppadon signed a joint statement with Cambodia on June 18, 2008 while he was foreign minister in a previous government and sought the listing of Preah Vihear as a World Heritage site.

The prime minister said withdrawal from the UN heritage body is “not the end of the game” but that Thailand must “protect our territory and prevent any move in the international arena that will affect our sovereignty.”

To prevent any intrusion into Thai territory, Mr Abhisit said he had discussed with the military who assured him that troops are on alert around the clock and keep him updated of the situation.

He also pledged his government would do in every possible way to ensure that Thais living along the border would be able to lead a normal life.

Meanwhile, Army Chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha said he believed the withdrawal would not make the Thai-Cambodian border dispute worse but that bilateral relations will be at risk if the meeting proceeds.

He said both sides have redeployed troops along the border. The Thai army affirmed that its move was simply aimed at defending national sovereignty. The army chief also urged villagers living along the border not to panic.