UNESCO calls off joint talks over Preah Vihear

Thailand and Cambodia were supposed to hold joint talks with UNESCO in Paris over the weekend about submitting the Angkorian temple of Preah Vihear to the World Heritage List, but the meeting was called off unexpectedly.

Unesco calls off joint talks
Bangkok Post, 28 April 2008

Unesco calls off joint talks

Separate meetings now on Preah Vihear listing

THANIDA TANSUBHAPOL

The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation has cancelled a meeting with Thailand and Cambodia in Paris over efforts to put the Preah Vihear temple on Unesco’s World Heritage list. The meeting was supposed to be this Friday and Saturday, with Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama leading the Thai side in the talks.

The meeting has been tentatively rescheduled for May 13, Mr Noppadon said.

The talks will concentrate on Cambodia’s proposal to register the ancient ruins, which are right on the border with Thailand.

The only easy access is through Thailand, and some of the border is not demarcated and claimed by both sides.

Unesco will now send its representative, Francesco Caruso, for separate talks with the Thai and Cambodian governments.

The UN agency gave no reason for the change.

Mr Caruso has been appointed by Unesco as a special coordinator between Thailand and Cambodia on the issue and is due in Bangkok next month.

”The Thai government welcomes the proposal and is ready to meet and discuss in good faith with Cambodia the outstanding issues so as to facilitate the process of registration of the temple,” the ministry said.

Thailand and Cambodia have agreed in principle to jointly manage Preah Vihear and other ruins in Thailand in the area, but will not allow the project to affect the plan to demarcate the border there.

Preah Vihear, called Khao Phra Viharn in Thai, is on the Cambodian side of Si Sa Ket’s Kantharalak district.

But it does not look like the issue will be easily settled.

On April 10, the government handed an aide-memoire to Cambodian ambassador Ung Sean to protest against the deployment of Cambodian troops at the ancient temple.

The government said the troop deployment violated Thailand’s territorial sovereignty in the disputed areas along the border, and was also against the spirit of a memorandum of understanding in 2000 concerning the area around the temple.

The Cambodian government countered by summoning Thai ambassador Viraphand Vacharathit to deny all the allegations a day later.

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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