Cambodian officials head to UNESCO for talks with Thailand over temple issues

08:58, May 24, 2011      

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A Cambodian delegation led by cabinet minister Sok An on Monday evening left Phnom Penh for the UNESCO's headquarters in Paris for a meeting with Thailand over the Preah Vihear temple's management plan proposal.

The UNESCO-organized meeting will be held on May 25-26 in order to enable Cambodia and Thailand to negotiate about Cambodia's unilateral management plan proposal of Preah Vihear temple, which has been opposed by Thailand.

Speaking at Phnom Penh International Airport before his departure, Sok An, who is also Chairman of the Cambodian National Commission for UNESCO, said that in the upcoming meeting, he will hold talks with Thai minister of natural resources and environment Suwit Khunkitti, chief of the Thai heritage affairs.

"The meeting will focus on Preah Vihear temple and its management plan," he said.

"Cambodia's proposal for the inclusion of the temple's management plan to the World Heritage Committee (WHC) does not affect Thailand because the plan is conducted in Cambodian territory," he said

However, the Bangkok Post online newspaper reported on May 20 that Suwit Khunkitti said that Thailand stands firm on addressing the issue by determining the boundary on the Thai-Cambodian border first before a management plan around the temple is proposed to the WHC.

He claimed that part of the land in the management plan around the temple is still located on the Thai soil, the newspaper reported.

Sok An said that the upcoming meeting, he will present to UNESCO about the damage of the temple after Thai troops had fired 414 rounds of artilleries on the temple in the deadly clashes on Feb. 4 to 7.

"We will also urge UNESCO to send its experts to evaluate the damage order to consider for renovation," he added.

The upcoming meeting is the preparatory one prior to the World Heritage Committee's annual meeting to be held in Paris on June 19, he added.

Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple was enlisted as World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008.But Thailand claims the ownership of 4.6 sq km (1.8 square miles) of scrub next to the temple.

Border conflict between Cambodia and Thailand occurred just a week after the enlistment.

Since then, both sides have built up military forces along the border and periodic clashes have happened, resulted in the deaths of troops and civilians on both sides.

The two sides agreed to accept Indonesian observers to monitor a ceasefire on their respective border side on Feb. 22 at the ASEAN foreign ministers meeting in Jakarta, but the deployment was delayed as Thailand demanded that Cambodian soldiers and locals be withdrawn from the disputed area of 4.6 sq km near the temple first.

Source: Xinhua
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