Thailand pushing for WHC understanding on temple dispute


BANGKOK, May 31 – Thailand will speed its attempt to inform the UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee (WHC) to understand Thailand’s stance on Preah Vihear temple, while planning to hold further talks with Cambodia before the 35th session of WHC annual meeting to start on June 19, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Suwit Khunkitti said on Tuesday.

Mr Suwit who is also Thai government’s chief negotiator notified the cabinet about the result of special meeting between Thailand and Cambodia on May 25 to 26 on the ancient temple dispute at Paris-based UNESCO, mediated by its Director-General Irina Bokova.

He said the Thai delegation stood firm that the Cambodian management plan for Preah Vihear temple had caused problems between the two countries and the Thai representatives would go ahead with Thailand’s plan to inform the 20 WHC member countries to understand that possible problem may arise in the future if the WHC accepts the Preah Vihear management plan proposed by Cambodia at the 35th WHC meeting being held June 26-29.

However, Mr Suwit admitted that the move was not easy as many WHC member countries had provided assistance to Cambodia in the past but he was confident that those countries would understand the problem.

During the Paris meeting, UNESCO demonstrated a better understanding of the issue and towards Thailand’s rationale for proposing that the WHC postpone consideration of Cambodia’s management plan in the area of the Preah Vihear temple pending finalisation of the boundary negotiations between the two countries.

This also included the proposal that in the long-term, Preah Vihear temple should be inscribed as a transboundary property.

However, at this stage, Cambodia continued to insist that its management plan be considered at the WHC meeting.

Mr Suwit said further discussion on how to proceed would therefore be needed and he expected Thailand and Cambodia would hold talks again before the start of WHC meeting on June 16.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) awarded Preah Vihear temple to Cambodia in 1962 and the temple was enlisted as a World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008.

Since then, both sides have built up military forces along the border and periodic clashes have happened, resulting in the deaths of troops and civilians on both sides.

Regarding the Cambodian request to the ICJ to interpret judgment on the case of Preah Vihear temple, including its request for indication of provisional measures, Mr Suwit said Thailand had to await the result of the ICJ hearing.

Thai legal team led by Minister of Foreign Affairs Kasit Piromya now in the Hague, Netherlands on Tuesday is scheduled to present the observation on Cambodian request on provision measures to ICJ for the second day at 10pm Thai time.

The result of hearing should be known within 1-3 weeks.  In any case, the provisional measure is a separate case from Cambodia’s request to interpret the court’s 1962 ruling on Preah Vihear. Should the provisional measures be issued or not, it will not affect the interpretation case.

As for the interpretation of the court’s 1962 ruling, it was expected that the court would require official statement from both sides about September or October and would take one or two years to consider.

On the first day of the hearing, Thai legal team had told the court that Thailand had accepted and complied with a 1962 ICJ ruling that the temple belonged to Cambodia. However the court has no jurisdiction to judge the Cambodian request.

Meanwhile, Cambodia had also accepted without protest the line drawn by Thailand demarking the area that encompasses the Preah Vihear temple compound following the 1962 Court decision.

After being silence for 40 years, Cambodia started to challenge the perimeter limits of the temple only recently when it wanted to list the temple as a World Heritage site and wanted the area as buffer zone to manage the temple under the management plan of the ancient Hindu temple.

Cambodia has also admitted that it had yet to demarcate the border – including the area where Preah Vihear temple is located – when it signed the memorandum of understanding with Thailand in 2000.

Thailand wished to live in peace, develop good relations and cooperation with Cambodia, so that there is no reason for any conflict, said the Thai legal team. (MCOT online news)