Friday, July 1, 2011

UNESCO may defer review of Cambodian Preah Vihear management plan until Friday

BANGKOK, June 22 - Today's UNESCO World Heritage Committee (WHC) meeting may defer its consideration of Cambodia's management plan for Preah Vihear until Friday, pending a Thai-Cambodian joint resolution, Thai Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Suwit Khunkitti said this morning.

Mr Suwit, who heads the Thai team at the heritage committee's 35th session at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, told reporters that Thailand and Cambodia have begun talks to find a solution to their Preah Vihear dispute.

He said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova acted as a mediator between representatives of Thailand and Cambodia.

The discussion was aimed at finding a joint solution to the disagreement related to the management plan for the Preah Vihear area as proposed by Cambodia, he said.

If Thailand and Cambodia could not agree on the resolution, the World Heritage Committee meeting could not consider the Preah Vihear management plan as Thailand stands firm that such consideration must be postponed, he said.

It is likely that the WHC consideration may be delayed until Friday, he noted.

Mr Suwit earlier said the UNESCO chief met separately with Thailand and Cambodia to work out a resolution acceptable to both sides for fear that face to face discussions between the two countries might heighten tensions. Ms Bokova wants to avoid a verbal clash during the UNESCO committee meeting.

The Thai minister said UNESCO forwarded the Thai team's resolution to Cambodia, but that the Cambodian delegation informed the world body that they could submit their own version on Wednesday.

Thailand wants the meeting to defer considering the Cambodian plan for the ancient temple listed as World Heritage Site in 2008 until the International Court of Justice (ICJ) rules on its complaint, and not until Thailand and Cambodia finish their border demarcation.

Cambodia, however, was against the idea of any postponement.

In April, Cambodia asked the court to clarify its1962 ruling on the ancient Hindu temple on its disputed border with Thailand following recent deadly armed clashes between the two neighbouring countries.

In 1962 the court ruled that the 11th century temple belongs to Cambodia.

Meanwhile, Thailand's 2nd Army Area commander Lt-Gen Tawatchai Samutsakorn said Cambodia reinforced its troops and ammunition supplies at the border and built more bunkers in existing bases. However, there is no sign of any new attack.

The general said that nonetheless he had ordered Thai troops to remain on alert around the clock.

In the zone northwest of Preah Vihear Temple, where the contested 4.6 kilometre area lies, both Thai and Cambodian troops have been deployed. (MCOT online news)

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