Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has reportedly said that Thailand “can no longer work with” UNESCO if the United Nations cultural body fails to delay consideration of Cambodia’s management plan for Preah Vihear temple at a meeting this week in Paris.
The Bangkok Post reported yesterday that Abhisit had made the vague threat in reference to Cambodia’s management plan for the temple, which is up for discussion at the World Heritage Committee meeting, which began on Sunday and stretches to June 29.
“We keep talking with UNESCO,” Abhisit was quoted as saying. “If they don’t postpone [consideration of Cambodia’s management plan], they should know that we can no longer work with them.”
The article did not go on to elaborate further on Abhisit’s remarks.
Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongphakdi referred questions to government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn, who said he was unfamiliar with Abhisit’s reported comments.
“My understanding is that we are waiting to hear from the World Heritage meeting,” Panitan said.
“We would like to persuade the members to hear our position – I think that’s all I can say at this moment.”
Tith Sothea, a spokesman for the Press and Quick Reaction Unit at the Council of Ministers, said Thailand had “no authority” to block consideration of Cambodia’s management plan for the 11th-century temple.
“These activities won’t come to anything because the Cambodian plan has correctly followed the instructions from UNESCO,” he said.
In a statement issued ahead of the meeting in Paris, Cambodia’s National Committee for World Heritage said Thailand’s “decades-long record of military incursions shows why [it] does not want its actions on the border to be observed”.
“What we are seeing is the implementation on the ground of Thailand’s expansionist ambitions,” the statement said.
Preah Vihear temple was originally enshrined as a UNESCO World Heritage site for Cambodia in 2008 and is being developed as a tourist destination.
At a ceremony in Phnom Penh yesterday, Prime Minister Hun Sen said 24 Cambodian troops had been killed in periodic clashes with Thailand since 2008, most recently with clashes along the border near Oddar Meanchey province that concluded last month.
“We don’t really want war, but they are too rude,” Hun Sen said, referring to Thailand. “Despite that, it is better not to fight each other.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMES O’TOOLE