Thailand tells Unesco to ask before entering

A recent visit by Unesco officials to Preah Vihear prompted a curt notice by Thailand that Unesco must ask for permission from Thailand before any visits to disputed areas. However, the Unesco delegation said that they steered clear of any disputed areas and only toured the Cambodian side. It sounds like Thailand is touchy over the (unresolved) territory issue at Preah Vihear, and it also goes to show how much injured pride is at the heart of this border dispute.

Thailand to UNESCO: Ask before entering disputed border zone
MCOT News, 21 May 2009

Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday notified the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that its representatives must seek permission from the Thai government prior to entering the disputed Thai-Cambodian border area near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple.

The warning was conveyed by the Ministry’s Treaties and Legal Affairs director-general Weerachai Palasai to the Bangkok-based UNESCO chief of Information and Knowledge Management Unit Clive Wing during a meeting at the ministry.

It came after representatives of the International Councils on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) entered the disputed area between late March and early April, without giving prior notification to or seeking permission from the Thai authorities.

UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture Francoise Riviere informed the Thai embassy in Paris later on April 17 about the survey in which she said that the officials flew by helicopter and landed at the cliff on the Cambodian side and then spent about two hours walking to the ancient temple.

She said the UNESCO team avoided passing through the area contested by Thailand and Cambodia.


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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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