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P Vihear ruling disregarded


Thai panel’s condemnation of support for Heritage listing insignificant, Cambodia says.

Photo by: Tracey Shelton

A boy leans against the ruins of the Preah Vihear temple.

CAMBODIAN officials have dismissed as insignificant a ruling from a Thai anticorruption body finding former premier Samak Sundaravej and former foreign minister Noppadon Pattama guilty of illegally backing the World Heritage site application for Preah Vihear temple.

The Thai National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC) ruled on Tuesday that the officials should have obtained parliamentary approval before seeking a cabinet resolution that allowed Noppadon to sign a June 2008 communique expressing support for the application.

“The NCCC has ruled that [Samak and Noppadon] violated the law and the constitution,” said Klanarong Chantik, the body’s spokesman.

He also said the body would send its decision to the Thai senate and the supreme court’s criminal division for persons holding political positions, meaning the officials could face prosecution.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said the ruling would have no impact on the ongoing row over disputed border territory near the ruins.

“Preah Vihear belongs solely to the Kingdom of Cambodia, so what happened in Thailand about the charges against the former prime minister is the internal affair of Thailand,” he said.

Yim Sovann, spokesman for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, declined to comment on the ruling, saying it was Thailand’s “internal affair”.

But Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, said the ruling was another example of Thai officials trying to use the Preah Vihear dispute for domestic political gain.

“Thai leaders always have used Preah Vihear temple for their propaganda to get popularity,” he said.

He said the communique had played no role in the application’s approval.

“The decision to list the temple as a World Heritage site was made by Cambodian leaders, not by Thai leaders,” he said.

Chuch Phoeung, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, said support from the Thai officials had been inconsistent.

“Actually, Samak and Noppadon did not assist Cambodians in the listing of Preah Vihear temple. They started to curse us and UNESCO officials in Quebec,” he said, referring to the July 2008 meeting at which the application was approved.

For his part, Noppadon blasted the ruling as unfair and based on evidence provided by his political opponents, The Bangkok Post reported Wednesday.

He said the communique did not need to be cleared by parliament because it was not an international treaty.




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