After Cambodia reported that Thai shelling had damaged a wing of Preah Vihear temple, UNESCO announced:
The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, today reiterated her call for calm and restraint around the Temple of Preah Vihear, inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2008. A border dispute between Cambodia and Thailand caused several deaths and damage to the site in recent days.
I intend to send a mission to the area as soon as possible to assess the state of the temple,” she said. “World Heritage sites are the heritage of all humanity and the international community has a special responsibility to safeguard them. This requires a collective effort that must be undertaken in a spirit of consultation and dialogue. Heritage should unite people and serve as an instrument of dialogue and mutual understanding and not of conflict.”
BP: Now, reporters who have been to Preah Vihear say the damage is only minor although Cambodia is still insisting there was significant damage. However, the Thai Foreign Ministry is not happy that UNESCO will visit per The Nation:
Thai Foreign Ministry said Wednesday it was not proper for Unesco to send its mission to visit the disputed Preah Vihear Temple.
Ministry’s spokesman Thani Thongpakdi said the present situations at the border was still tense.
“It is not an appropriate time for the Unesco’s World Heritage Committee to dispatch its mission to visit the temple. The situation along the border is still tense,” he said in a press briefing.
Moreover the UN agency has to ask permission from the Thai side to go there, he said.
BP: Is Thani really saying (or is that The Nation editoralizing) that Preah Vihear is “disputed” given the ICJ decision clearly ruling that Preah Vihear belonged to Cambodia. Again, it is hard to tell whether he is just saying that it was not an appropriate time to visit now due to the fighting (which for safety reasons is not unreasonable) or that it was just not proper to go. The Bangkok Post though provides some additional information:
Former ambassador to the United Nations Assada Chaiyanam will explain to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) why Thailand objects to it inspecting Preah Vihear temple, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya’s secretary Chavanont Intarakomalyasut said on Wednesday.
Mr Chavanont said Mr Assada will fly to France to meet Unesco representatives on Friday (Feb 11).
BP: Why object to UNESCO inspecting Preah Vihear? Ok, of course, the nationalists will hate it, but if you are trying to point out that the Cambodians are exaggerating the extend of the damage wouldn’t an independent assessment of the actual damage be a good thing? Then again, some many not want to encourage independent investigations of anything….