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UNESCO meeting cues dispute with Thailand

GOVERNMENT officials yesterday lashed out at reports that Thailand will move to disrupt Cambodia’s plans to preserve the disputed Preah Vihear temple.

On Sunday, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was quoted by Thai television station NBT as saying he had instructed Natural Resources and
Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti to reject a Cambodian management plan for the preservation of the 11th-century temple when the UNESCO World Heritage Committee meets later this month.

Abhisit also stated that although Thailand accepted a 1962 ruling by the International Court of Justice that handed ownership of the temple to Cambodia, it maintained its right to withhold recognition of the 1904 map upon which the ruling was based.

Tith Sothea, spokesman for the Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit, said that during the upcoming WHC meeting, which will be held in Brasilia from July 27 to August 3, Cambodia planned to report on temple-preservation efforts and development of the surrounding area.

“Any intention of the current government of Thailand to attempt to oppose the heritage matter [at] the upcoming WHC meeting will clearly show a shameful image of Thailand to the international community,” he said.

He added that any border-demarcation issues should be handled by the two countries’ Joint Border Commission.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Thailand should follow the ruling of the ICJ on all matters related to Preah Vihear temple, and that it was too late to complain about the issue.

“The comment he raised is wrong because former Thai foreign minister Noppadon Pattama agreed [to the listing] and signed a letter with Cambodia’s Deputy Prime Minister Sok An,” he said.

“We cannot stop Thailand from having an ambition to invade, but Cambodia does everything within its own territory and has the right to do whatever in its territory.”

On July 7, 2008, Preah Vihear was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, triggering sustained military buildup along the border.

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