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Abhisit threatens to reconsider UNESCO ties over Preah Vihear

THAI Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday that his government would cease cooperating with UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee if the body approves Cambodia’s management plan for Preah Vihear temple.

According to The Nation newspaper, a Thai delegation present at the meeting in Brazil, which runs until August 3, will lobby against Cambodia’s proposed management plan for the World Heritage site, which is to be presented this week.

Abhisit was quoted as saying that he would not cooperate with the WHC if the plan were approved, following a meeting with pro-government Yellow Shirt leaders yesterday that was spurred by protests outside UNESCO’s Bangkok headquarters on Tuesday. The Thai objections are based on claims that a 4.6-kilometre plot of land adjacent to the temple has not been properly demarcated.

“We think the World Heritage Committee should not consider this plan until Thailand and Cambodia have agreed upon the demarcation line,” Abhisit said. When asked if Thailand would withdraw from the WHC if the plan were approved, he was quoted as saying: “There are many options. We may consider harsh measures”.

Also yesterday, the Thai cabinet passed three resolutions relating to the WHC meeting, pledging that Bangkok would “review its membership at [UNESCO] if the international agency endorses the management plan”.

Cambodian government officials said Thailand’s statements concerning the issue would harm its international reputation. Tith Sothea, spokesman for the Press and Quick Reaction Unit at the Council of Ministers, said yesterday that the objections were part of an attempt by the Thai
government and “extremists” to “pollute the atmosphere” of relations between the two countries.

“Cambodia doesn’t care at all about the objection,” he said. “The objection was created by a group of extremists and the government in a campaign to pollute the atmosphere and show Thailand’s intention to invade Cambodia. The objection by Thailand will destroy its own honour in the international community.”

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said yesterday that the International Court of Justice awarded Preah Vihear temple to Cambodia in 1962. He added that Cambodia’s claim to the 4.6-square-kilometre area of scrub next to the temple was based on a 1908 map produced by France and Thailand, then known as Siam.

“Thailand claimed the land belonged to it in 2007, referring to a unilaterally produced map,” he said. “Thailand’s falsified establishment of the map to claim the area is an international crime.

“So the 4.6 square kilometres is a falsification by Thais to claim Cambodia’s land. Now Thailand’s policy, if they get nothing, they want to co-manage the eco-management.”

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