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Going it alone


Cambodia has vowed to go ahead with its UNESCO application despite Thai objections.

Cambodia has vowed to press ahead with its bid for a UNESCO World Heritage listing for Preah Vihear temple despite a Thai court ruling that Bangkok cannot support the nomination for the ancient Hindu site.

"It's their internal problem," Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan told the Post in a phone interview on June 30.

"[Preah Vihear] is our temple and we want it to receive world heritage listing," Siphan said.

"Preah Vihear belongs to us so we are not interested in this," he added, referring to an injunction issued by Thailand's Administrative Court on June 28.

The injunction temporarily blocked the Thai government from supporting Cambodia's nomination to seek world heritage status for Preah Vihear at a UNESCO meeting in Quebec starting July 2.

The injunction follows a joint communiqué endorsing the nomination that was signed by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama on June 18.

The injunction had been sought by a coalition of activist groups in Thailand, the People's Alliance for Democracy, which has been leading weeks of street protests in Bangkok against the government of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej.

Opposition parties criticized Samak over the communiqué during a no-confidence debate in the Thai parliament last week after the Preah Vihear issue had been raised at the street protests in Bangkok.

Siphan expressed frustration at the role played by Thai opposition parties.

"The Cambodian government is working with the Thai government; we are not working with the Thai opposition," he said.

Siphan downplayed the possibility of unrest in Cambodia over the stand taken by some Thai groups.

"Thai restaurants are full of Cambodian people," he said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong also expressed regret that some Thai parties and politicians were exploiting the Preah Vihear issue as part of their campaign against the Samak government.

"I am very sorry they are using Preah Vihear for their internal political purposes; this can affect the friendship and cooperation between our two countries," Namhong told a news conference on June 27.

On June 22, the Cambodian government closed the border checkpoint at Preah Vihear, citing security concerns after a group of Thai activists gathered at a market near the main entrance to the temple, which is most easily accessed from the Thai side of the border. 

In response to the border closure, a ceremony was held at Preah Vihear on June 30 to offer food to the small Cambodian community living at the temple site and to pray for peace.

The ceremony was sponsored by the Khmer Civilization Foundation, which on June 15 hosted a celebration in Phnom Penh to mark the 46th anniversary of the ruling by the International Court of Justice granting ownership of Preah Vihear to Cambodia.

Foundation president Moeung Sonn said the donated food, including four tons of rice and 330 bottles of fish sauce, as well as soy sauce, salt and packaged noodles, had cost $4,000, including $1,000 of his own money.

Sonn said he planned to take doctors with him on a return trip to Preah Vihear because some of the Cambodians there were ill and had requested medicine and medical treatment.



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