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Thailand on attack at UNESCO meeting

Officials from Thailand and Cambodia traded barbs as a meeting of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in Paris headed into its second day yesterday.

Thai officials have ann-ounced they will  attempt to prevent the committee considering Cambodia’s management plan for the Preah Vihear temple, which sits along the countries’ contentious border and was enshrined as a UNESCO World Heritage site for Cambodia in 2008.

The meeting began on Sunday and will run until June 29.

The Bangkok Post reported yesterday that at a meeting on the first day of the conference, Thai Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti had met with UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova in an attempt  to convince her that Cambodia had misappropriated UNESCO funds, using them to renovate a nearby village rather than the temple itself.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan rejected this accusation as “baseless”, saying Cambodia was dedicated to restoring and developing the temple site.

“Mr Suwit knows nothing about that,” Phay Siphan said. “Our development is absolutely targeted.”

Discussion of Cambodia’s management plan is expected to begin on Thursday.

The two sides engaged in a similar tussle last year at a World Heritage Committee meeting in Brazil, at which Cambodia submitted the management plan despite  Thai objections.

After the meeting, the government said  Thailand’s efforts to derail the plan had been a “total debacle”.

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