Thousands of people and government officials gathered at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday. They were celebrating Preah Vihear Temple’s and Sambor Prei Kuk’s registration as a Unesco World Heritage Sites. It is the former’s 10th anniversary and the later’s first.
Caretaker Prime Minister Hun Sen chaired the celebration and appealed for the protection of the temples, saying that now that the Kingdom has experienced 20 years of peace, cultural protection and friendly border relations were priorities.
“Fighting is not a good choice, but peaceful solutions are. I think Thailand will not be angry with me when I say this because it is the truth and it gives both countries a lesson to maintain a peaceful border,” he said.
“Ten years ago today, I found it very difficult to make the decision and I would like to apologise to Thailand. I should not talk about this, but we cannot overlook it because it is our experience that we need to remember and we need to put efforts in creating the border lines in a friendly and cooperative manner,” he said.
On July 7, 2008, the World Heritage Committee added the 11th-century Preah Vihear Temple to the list of World Heritage Sites, and last year the committee added the ninth-century Sambor Prei Kuk archaeological site in Kampong Thom province to the list.
After Unesco honoured Preah Vihear, which Thailand claimed rested inside its border, skirmishes with the neighbouring country broke out that lasted until December 2011.
In November 2013, the International Court of Justice ruled that the temple and adjacent areas belonged to Cambodia.
Mechtild Rossler, director of the Division for Heritage and the Unesco World Heritage Centre, said that while 10 years may seem like a long time, efforts to maintain Preah Vihear should last centuries.
“The protection of our shared heritage is not the work for tomorrow or the next month only. We have to remember that our work might remain influential for decades to come."
“We have the obligation to take care of this wonderful temple for the next generation, who will take on the obligation to continue caring for the temple."
“I really am deeply sad that I cannot join this event, but I believe that all of you will have a great time with the successful celebration of the 10th anniversary of the registering of the Preah Vihear Temple in the World Heritage list,” she said.