Thai court orders injunction on Preah Vihear World Heritage listing

More drama over Preah Vihear unfolded over the weekend after Thailand’s World Heritage Committee first announced its intention to co-host the bid to list the disputed temple with Cambodia. Thai nationalists succeeded in convincing the Thai Administrative Court to issue an injunction against the Thai side of the hosting, alleging that Bangkok’s support for the listing is exchanged for business concessions in Cambodia. This injunction will mostly likely delay the submission of the proposal to list Preah Vihear as a World Heritage Site.

Thailand to co-host bid to get Preah Vihear listed by Unesco
Bangkok Post, 28 June 2008

Thai court blocks support for Cambodia temple bid
Reuters, via Asiaone, 28 June 2008

Court issues injunction in temple row
Bangkok Post, 29 June 2008

Thailand to co-host bid to get Preah Vihear listed by Unesco

Thailand’s world heritage committee has decided to co-host the nomination of Preah Vihear temple as a world heritage site with Cambodia. The committee, chaired by newly-appointed chairman Pongpol Adireksarn, also agreed that the listing of the ancient Hindu temple should not cover only the temple, but also the area around the temple, which is on Thai soil.

Phnom Penh will propose Preah Vihear to a meeting of the 21-member Unesco World Heritage Committee, which starts in Quebec on July 2.

”We have agreed in principle that Thailand and Cambodia should be co-hosts in the nomination of the temple,” said Mr Pongpol, who succeeded former committee chairman Prof Adul Vichiencharoen.

However, Mr Pongpol said, the Foreign Ministry would have the final say on Thailand’s stance and will play a key role in negotiations on the Preah Vihear temple issue at the Quebec meeting next month.

Mr Pongpol said the committee agreed that the ministry should take the lead role because the issue is sensitive and has been having a strong impact on Thai-Cambodian relations.

He added that the ministry had confirmed its position to the Thai world heritage committee yesterday, saying it supports Phnom Penh’s bid to have the Preah Vihear temple registered on the World Heritage list as announced in the controversial joint communique.

Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama signed the joint communique with his Cambodian counterpart on June 18, supporting the nomination of the Hindu temple as a world heritage site.

The move has drawn fierce protests from the public, the anti-government People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) and the opposition, who fear Thailand will lose part of its territory if Cambodia is given world heritage status for the temple.

The PAD on Tuesday filed a complaint with the Administrative Court, demanding the court nullify the cabinet resolution allowing the foreign minister to sign the joint communique.

The Thai world heritage committee chairman, however, downplayed the public concern, saying the ministry had been extremely cautious over the borderline issue.

”The ministry officials told us that Thailand will not lose one square inch of territory if Cambodia nominates the temple as a world heritage site,” said Mr Pongpol, who is a former deputy chief of the defunct Thai Rak Thai party.

Mr Pongpol added that he hoped Unesco’s World Heritage Committee would take into account the importance of the temple area and consider it to be part of the world heritage site.

Walwipha Charoenroj, an expert from the Thai Khadi Research Institute, said the committee chairman’s stance on the controversial issue was disappointing.

”Does it mean that he and the committee members will not make any objection to the temple’s nomination? Mr Pongpol should make his position clear on such an important matter,” said the academic, who led the protests against the joint communique.

A source inside the committee said if the Cambodian bid is endorsed by Unesco, Phnom Pehn will have full authority to manage the Preah Vihear temple as the owner of the world heritage site.

This will bring many difficulties to the Thai side in the future, he said.

”Thailand will have an equal right to manage the site only if the country is a co-host of the world heritage site proposal.

”And this will lead to better management of the site,” he added.

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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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