Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Preah Vihear dispute claims new victim

Preah Vihear dispute claims new victim

Preah Vihear dispute claims new victim

S o Mara, Cambodia's Director General of the Ministry of Tourism, was axed by Hun

Sen on Monday July 16 following a controversy over an agreement negotiated with Thai

authorities.

The agreement ceded partial management of the 10th Century Preah Vihear Temples near

Cambodia's northern Thai border to Thailand.

Funcinpec lawmaker Nan Sy had been outraged by the agreement and sought the support

of the National Assembly, eventually gaining 39 signatures for a letter to Hun Sen

demanding the removal of the tourism official.

Sy maintains that the agreement was signed illegally.

"The So Mara issue is over, but the Preah Vihear issue is not finished yet.

We can negotiate about tourists but we cannot negotiate about the control of the

temple," said Ny.

The Preah Vihear temples have long been a prickly issue between Cambodia and its

neighbours. The strategic hillside position has at various times been occupied by

military forces of Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Khmer Rouge.

While the temple is officially under Cambodian jurisdiction, it is accessible only

through Thailand, is predominantly visited by Thai tourists and patrolled by unarmed

Thai Army Rangers.

Sy described the temples as one of Cambodia's most important "national treasures".

"You cannot compare it to Angkor Wat, it is unique and my people believe that

it is very very important...we need investment [in tourism] but control of the temple

is not negotiable," he said. "Preah Vihear is a very sensitive issue for

the Cambodian people, that's why the King went to court in 1962", added Ny.

In 1958 the Thai military took possession of the temple, an event which was considered

a catalyst for Sihanouk to establish diplomatic relations with China against the

wishes of Cambodia's western allies.

In 1959 Prince Sihanouk took the Preah Vihear dispute to the World Court in the

Hague and in 1962 the court decided in Cambodia's favor.

Ny is hopeful of a speedy resolution to the current dispute after a meeting between

Thai and Cambodian authorities set for August 2.

"I hope that after the Minister of Tourism comes to the National Assembly on

August 2 we will have an answer", said Ny.

So Mara himself is no stranger to controversy. In August 2000 he was implicated in

an involvement with a human trafficking ring that forced a group of Eastern European

women into prostitution at a Phnom Penh karaoke bar.

Athough Mara was named by the women as one of their most regular patrons, entertaining

groups of Thai tourists at the Tai-Ming Plaza nightclub on a nightly basis, he escaped

any official censure for his actions.

MOST VIEWED

  • Chinese tourists 2.0 – Coming anytime soon?

    Regional tourism is grappling with the absence of the prolific travellers and big spenders – the Chinese tourists. Cambodia, which has welcomed over two million Chinese tourists before Covid-19, is reeling from the economic loss despite being the first to fully open last November ‘To put

  • PM reflects on shoe throwing: Free speech or act of violence?

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 17 questioned whether a man who threw a shoe at him while he was in the US was exercising freedom of expression or if it was an act of hostility. Hun Sen was referring to an incident last week when

  • Hun Sen: Stop Russia sanctions

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said sanctions against Russia as a result of its military offensive in Ukraine should be stopped as they have produced no tangible results, and predicted that a global food crisis would ensue in 2023 as a consequence. Speaking to an audience at

  • Prime Minister Hun Sen warmly welcomed by president Biden

    Prime Minister Hun Sen, as ASEAN chair, and other ASEAN leaders were warmly welcomed by US president Joe Biden as the ASEAN-US summit May 12-13 kicked off today in Washington. “This evening, I welcomed ASEAN leaders to the White House for the first time in

  • Prime Minister Hun Sen invites US president to attend summit in Cambodia

    Prime Minister Hun Sen personally invited US President Joe Biden to attend the ASEAN-US Summit which is set to be held in Cambodia in November, as ASEAN and the US are expected to upgrade their strategic partnership to a ‘comprehensive strategic partnership’, according to Prime

  • Pub Street on the cards for Battambang

    The Battambang Provincial Authority has announced that it is considering establishing a Pub Street in the area around the heritage buildings in Battambang town in a bid to attract more tourists. Battambang provincial governor Sok Lou told The Post that the establishment of a Pub