World Heritage Update: Preah Vihear also included

The details are sketchy, but it seems that Cambodia was successful in getting to controversial border temple Preah Vihear listed in the World Heritage List, despite Thailand’s objections. The news has come out on some of the news agencies and on the Bangkok Post, but at this point there still isn’t anything from the UNESCO website.

Quebec meeting lists temple as Heritage Site
Bangkok Post, 08 July 2008

Unesco accepts George Town and Malacca as World Heritage Sites
The Star, 08 July 2008

Quebec meeting lists temple as Heritage Site
(Additional, foreign news agency report from Quebec below)
By Thanida Tansubhapol

The World Heritage Committee (WTC) meeting in Quebec, Canada has approved Cambodia’s application to list the 11th century Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site.

The Monday meeting did not take into account the controversial joint communique between Bangkok and Phnom Penh, a Thai delegate to the meeting said before the decision was made.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama explained the Administrative Court’s temporary injunction to the 21 WTC members, Pongpol Adireksan, chairman of the Thai World Heritage Committee, said.

Mr Pongpol is there as an observer. The court issued an injunction against the cabinet’s June 17 resolution, which gave approval for Mr Noppadon to sign a joint communique with Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An the following day. Mr Noppadon’s signature conveyed Thailand’s support for Cambodia’s bid to list the temple as a World Heritage site.

The WHC only considered the report of the International Council for Monuments and Sites as a basis for making the decision, Mr Pongpol said.

Bangkok was opposed to Phnom Penh’s proposal, instead favouring a joint nomination of the site.

Thailand had been unable to convince the WHC to postpone the issue and wait for a joint nomination, or to defer it until the next meeting.

The WHC said the Preah Vihear issue had already been postponed once, at last year’s gathering in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The meeting also inscribed the cities of the Straits of Malacca: Melaka and Georgetown in Malaysia, and the Kuk Early Agricultural Site in Papua New Guinea, AFP reported.

The WHC had sent its representatives to talk with the Thai and Cambodian delegates to clarify their positions.

Mr Pongpol said the temple listing would have no effect on the demarcation of the border between the two countries. It was specifically only the temple site.

Mr Pongpol said political problems in Thailand had affected the country’s ability to lobby committee members.

“We are at a disadvantage. Cambodia regards Preah Vihear as a national issue and continued lobbying when Thailand was undergoing a coup,” he said.

New York/Quebec (dpa) – In one of the most controversial decisions of its eight-day meetings, Unesco on Monday named a Hindu temple in Cambodia to the World Heritage list that has been under the cloud of a border dispute with Thailand for decades.

Preah Vihear is a stunning clifftop temple dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva perched on the cliff that defines the Thai-Cambodian border.

Cambodia sought designation for the millennium-old temple, but Thailand has challenged the move over a border spat dating to a 1962 International Court of Justice ruling.

In a compromise in May, Cambodia agreed to redraw the inscription map, including only the temple, but the move would limit Unesco’s say over how Preah Vihear would be preserved, officials in Cambodia and Thailand have said.

Cambodia’s compromise brought Thailand back on board, and the government signed a joint bid, but then withdrew its approval at the last minute in the face of massive public protests and an order by a Thai Administrative Court.

At the last minute, Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama travelled to Canada to plead against the designation, but without success.

Thailand successfully blocked Cambodia’s efforts to list Preah Vihear in both 2006 and 2007 on the grounds that the inscription map included a 4.6-square-kilometre piece of land in the temple compound that is still subject to a border dispute.

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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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