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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Prince asks Thai PM to show restraint in Preah Vihear dispute

Prince asks Thai PM to show restraint in Preah Vihear dispute

A REPRESENTATIVE of the Royal Cabinet wrote to Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday in a bid to resolve the ongoing standoff over the status of Preah Vihear temple and other disputed areas along the border.

In a letter from Beijing, Prince Sisowath Thomico, an adviser to King Norodom Sihamoni, stated that the two countries had an interest in putting aside territorial disputes for the “harmony” of the region.

“Raising territorial claims is a futile attempt that flies in the face of history, and that harms our people by diverting significant resources that could otherwise be invested in development,” he wrote.

“My dearest wish, Your Excellency, would be to see Preah Vihear standing as the enduring symbol of the reconciliation between our two nations, of the harmony of our relationship, and a model of fruitful cooperation between the two neighbours.”

The letter comes as a meeting of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s World Heritage Committee concludes in Brazil today.

On Thursday, the WHC acknowledged receiving Cambodia’s management plan for Preah Vihear, but deferred its consideration until a meeting set to be held in Bahrain in 2011.

Thai officials had vowed to oppose the plan, and threatened to withdraw from UNESCO if they were not appeased.

The annual meeting has become a flashpoint between Cambodia and Thailand ever since the WHC listed Preah Vihear as a World Heritage site in July 2008. Bangkok opposes the listing, claiming a 4.6-square-kilometre area adjacent to the 11-century temple.

In a weekly address on Sunday, Abhisit said Thailand had obtained the Cambodian management plan and would look to see if it violates “Thai sovereignty” in the border area.

But Tith Sothea, spokesman for the Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit, said yesterday that since Cambodia’s plan had been submitted to the WHC, Thai attempts to raise the matter were meaningless.

“I think Abhisit’s knowledge on heritage issues is limited – he does not understand the facts, the work of heritage and its progress,” he said. “His manner is to provoke nationalism and [give out] misleading information to gain politically.”

Tith Sothea said Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, who headed the Cambodian delegation to Brazil, would return to Cambodia on Saturday.

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