Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Temple triumph

Temple triumph

Temple triumph

Preah Vihear temple has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site after years of efforts by Cambodian officials to get the 11th-century Hindu monument listed, sparking jubilant celebrations across Phnom Penh.

The inscription, approved on July 7 by the 21-nation World Heritage Committee during a UNESCO meeting in Quebec, Canada, comes despite an ongoing dispute with Thailand over ownership of the land surrounding the temple, which sits atop an escarpment on the border between the two countries.

Thailand's Constitutional Court ruled on July 8 that Thailand's cabinet violated the Kingdom's constitution by endorsing a deal supporting Cambodia's bid for World Heritage listing.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said the same day, however, that the listing “is another new pride for the Cambodian people and the Kingdom of Cambodia."

“Again, I confirm that the listing of Preah Vihear temple ... does not affect the process of border negotiations between Cambodia and Thailand. I profoundly thank all Cambodian people for their heartfelt support,” he added in a statement that was broadcast over state media.

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told reporters later in the day that Cambodia's border committee was still working with its Thai counterpart over demarcating their mutual boundary.

"We always want good cooperation with Thailand," he said.

As Cambodia woke to the news that Preah Vihear was now a world landmark, crowds took to the streets, waving flags and banging drums. Hundreds of university students left their classrooms, jamming traffic as they massed near the University of Health and Sciences to sing the national anthem.

"I am very happy to hear the good news about the temple. I wish for it to bring good luck, more tourists and prosperity to Cambodia," said Phnom Penh resident Phon Samon, who attended a ceremony held by the Khmer Civilization Foundation in front of the Royal Palace.

Moeung Sonn, who is president of the Foundation which was formed in response to the Preah Vihear dispute, called the listing a "second victory" for Cambodia, the first being the 1962 ruling by the International Court of Justice which gave the Kingdom sovereignty over the temple.

Despite the listing, however, the international border crossing at Preah Vihear remains closed following demonstrations there last month by Thais claiming that the temple belongs to Thailand – underscoring continuing tensions with Cambodia.

"It is too early to re-open the checkpoint. It will not be opened anytime soon," said Preah Vihear provincial governor Preap Tan.

"We have to see what the situation is first. We don't know how the Thais are going to react to this," he added.

In Phnom Penh, police were deployed to the Thai embassy last week amid concerns that the temple dispute could spark violent protests reminiscent of the 2003 riots, during which the embassy and numerous Thai-owned businesses were looted and burned.

The trouble five years ago started over false rumors that a Thai starlet had claimed Angkor Wat – the most important symbol of the once-mighty Khmer empire – belonged to Thailand.

"More police are on standby to protect the embassy if there is any rioting," said Mary Tes, the police official in charge of the detachment outside the Thai mission.

But he added that the UNESCO decision to list Preah Vihear would help ease tensions.

“Before, I was worried about security because we did not know if the temple would be registered. But now I am glad because it was officially approved by UNESCO and it is not a problem anymore," he told the Post on July 8.

MOST VIEWED

  • Former opposition leader tells soldiers, Cambodians to unite to fight CPP

    Former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) President Sam Rainsy has called for a popular uprising after the July 29 national elections to force a change of government. He called on the armed forces and people to stand united to fight the ruling Cambodian People’s Party-led

  • Police warn boycott FB group involved in the “Clean Fingers Campaign”

    Police said on Tuesday that they will pick up members of a Facebook group involved in the “Clean Fingers Campaign” that promotes a boycott of next month’s national elections. However, police merely planned to “educate” the group for now, but warned that if the

  • Bun Heang mocks US, threatens its citizens in scathing open letter

    After being hit with sanctions from the US Department of Treasury, Cambodian General Hing Bun Heang said he would retaliate against any US national who does not respect his country’s sovereignty, has ambitions to invade Cambodia or incites “traitors” in the Kingdom to do

  • Court told to act against former opposition leader for insulting King

    Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana has ordered the Phnom Penh Municipal Court prosecutor to begin legal proceedings against the Cambodia National Rescue Movement (CNRM) president, Sam Rainsy, for “insulting” the King, Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin told The Post. The “insult” was determined after