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Thais withdraw from Paris meet

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A Cambodian soldier and a group of civilian visitors at the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple during a lull in fighting with Thailand in February.

The WHC decided to put the matter on the agenda. I have no choice, we have to withdraw

Thailand has withdrawn from a meeting of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee after the body said it would consider Cambodia’s management plan for the Preah Vihear temple, a Thai government minister said on Saturday night.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Sukwit Khunkitti, who headed the Thai delegation, said Thailand had been left with “no choice” but to withdraw after the committee ignored their pleas.

“The World Heritage Centre decided to put the matter on the agenda. I have no choice, we have to withdraw,” he said via Twitter.

“The decision is to prevent the other side from using this issue to claim our territory,” he added.

In an earlier tweet, Sukwit Khunkitti said it was useless to be in a society without rules – an apparent reference to the WHC – and threatened to withdraw if the committee did not accept Thailand’s proposal to delay Cambodia’s temple management plan, the Bangkok Post reported yesterday.

“I’ve issued an ultimatum_if they reject our proposal, we have to be apart,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An claimed in a statement from Paris that the WHC had “acknowledged” that the temple had been damaged by Thai soldiers during border clashes in February that left at least 10 dead on both sides as well as surface-level scars on the Hindu temple.

“The committee acknowledged as the temple was damaged from shelling by Thai soldiers and it is needed as immediately to dispatch technical team for the restoration and preservation of the temple,” he wrote from the 10-day summit in Paris. Sok An said 22 Cambodian delegates had lobbied representatives of the 19 WHC member states throughout the summit. “As result, the Thais completely failed in an attempt to postpone Cambodia’s management plan for Preah Vihear temple,” he wrote.

Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn and Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongphakdi could not be reached for comment.

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