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Thai claim on temple dismissed

Thai claim on temple dismissed

UNESCO has refused to hear a complaint by Thailand over Preah Vihear temple's listing as a World Heritage site at the annual meeting of its World Heritage Committee in Seville, Spain, Cambodian officials said Wednesday.

Last week, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva announced that Thailand would use the 33rd session of the committee to contest its July 2008 inscription of the temple.

"The Thais tried to put Preah Vihear on the agenda, but the World Heritage Committee won't consider [it]. They are moving ahead with the main agenda," Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Wednesday.

Local civil society groups applauded the committee's move.

"It is good news that UNESCO has rejected the Thai government's request. UNESCO doesn't dare to violate Cambodian sovereignty by following the Thai PM's request because Cambodia is backed by the 1962 [World Court] decision," said Union leader Rong Chhun, a vocal critic of Thai moves over the temple.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said that any other ruling would have undermined the committee's own decision to inscribe Preah Vihear last year.

He added that Bangkok, pressured by domestic opinion, had actually created more problems for itself by forcing the issue. "I think the fact they [objected] unsuccessfully just undermines the credibility of their own position," he said.

But following the decision, border troops say they remain on alert for any Thai incursions.

"We welcome the news that UNESCO has refused Thailand's request for a discussion about Preah Vihear temple," said Brigade 8 commander Yim Phim. "If [the Thais] ... do not try any more moves into Cambodian territory, there will be no clashes."

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