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Cambodia, Thailand rivals for 2012 meeting

Cambodia, Thailand rivals for 2012 meeting

Cambodia and Thailand have entered competing bids to host next year’s UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting, as the neighbouring kingdoms continue to seek strategic advantage in the long-standing disagreement over Preah Vihear temple.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said yesterday that Cambodia wanted to hold up its conservation efforts as an “example” for the rest of the world.

“UNESCO can take the preservation of cultural heritage in Cambodia as an example to show the world,” he said. “We are a leader in preservation and we want to share our experience with the world.”

Phay Siphan noted that Angkor Wat was listed as a World Heritage site in 1992, and Cambodia hopes to celebrate the 20th anniversary of that event by hosting the WHC meeting next year.

He claimed Cambodia held an advantage over Thailand and Bahrain, both of which have expressed interest in hosting the meeting, in part because Cambodia was more politically stable. This year’s WHC meeting was moved from Bahrain to Paris due to massive protests and a government crackdown.

Thani Thongphakdi, spokesman for the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, yesterday confirmed reports that Thailand had launched a campaign to host the summit.

He said there was no concern about political instability in Thailand, and said it was a positive move that different countries were seeking to host the meeting.

“I think that you have to look at this from the positive aspects: that those countries want to do their fair share in promoting the work of the [WHC],” he said.

Russia has also reportedly entered a bid to host the summit. At the annual meeting, delegates review preservation at World Heritage sites and consider new properties for listing.

The WHC, which is meeting in Paris, is expected to consider Cambodia’s management plan for the Preah Vihear temple, which was declared a World Heritage site in 2008 over Thai objections.

Thailand has asked UNESCO to delay discussion of the plan pending the resolution of an adjacent disputed border.

Thai Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment Suwit Khunkitti, who leads the Thai delegation in the talks, said the two countries had been in talks brokered by UNESCO head Irina Bokova to resolve the issue, Thai state news agency MCOT reported yesterday.

Tith Sothea, spokesman for the Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reactions Unit, said yesterday there had been no update on the talks from Deputy Prime Minister Sok An.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY THOMAS MILLER

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