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Festivities celebrate temple

Preah Vihear province

MORE than 1,000 officials, soldiers and local villagers turned out at Preah Vihear temple yesterday to celebrate the second anniversary of its inscription as a World Heritage site.

During the ceremony, Buddhist monks chanted blessings while performers beat traditional Khmer drums representing the warrior ethic of the Angkorian empire.

In an address, Chea Dara, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, paid tribute to the “smart leadership” of Prime Minister Hun Sen, which he said had helped protect the temple from Thai occupation.

“We are determined to protect Preah Vihear temple and its sovereignty according to the policy of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who ordered us not to invade 1 millimetre into Thailand, and also not to allow our sovereignty to be invaded by 1 millimetre either,” he said.

The temple’s July 2008 listing by UNESCO was highly controversial in Thailand, and triggered a rapid troop buildup along the border with Cambodia. The standoff has been punctuated by a series of small-scale clashes – some of them deadly – along the frontier.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said the celebration was designed to raise awareness about the value of the ancient temple as an emblem of Cambodian history and culture.

In a press conference at Wat Keo Sekha Kirisvarak yesterday, he said the issue of ownership was definitively settled by a 1962 World Court ruling that handed the temple to Cambodia.

“We are here to look for cultural conservation and preservation, but the government of Thailand looks at the temple as a border conflict,” he said.

“We take this important day to send a message to Thai soldiers and the international community that Cambodia has no border conflict with Thailand.”

He added that in 2009, the government spent US$99 million conserving Preah Vihear and improving road access to it.

Hang Soth, director general of the Preah Vihear National Authority, said that ever since the UNESCO listing, projects had been undertaken to ready the temple for an increase in tourists.

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Apsara dancers perform at Preah Vihear temple yesterday during a ceremony marking the two-year
anniversary of its inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

“My work here is to focus on the conservation, restoration and research of the heritage site in order to ensure its sustainable development as a tourist destination,” he said.

Hang Soth said much progress on preservation had been made in the past two years, but that work had been hamstrung by tension with Thailand.
He said that with international support, the 11-century ruins could finally get the attention they deserve after years of civil war and conflict.

“We hope that the international community will support our research and conservation projects,” he said.

Evidence in Thai bombing
Also yesterday, Thai police said they found evidence linking a pair of Red Shirt activists to the attempted bombing of a political party headquarters in Bangkok on June 22, following their deportation from Cambodia on Monday.
The Bangkok Post reported yesterday that Thailand’s department of special investigation (DSI) found a notebook belonging to suspect Varisareeya Boonsom, 42, that contained instructions on how to make bombs.
DSI chief Tharit Pengdit said Varisareeya admitted to owning the notebook, but denied any knowledge of the notes.
Varisareeya and her husband, Kobchai Boonplod, also 42, were arrested on Saturday in Siem Reap province before being handed to Thai authorities in Phnom Penh on Monday.



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