World Heritage Committee to decide on Preah Vihear temple plan tonight
The World Heritage Committee is expected to decide on Cambodia’s proposed management plan for Preah Vihear temple on Thursday night Thailand time, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti said in a television interview from Brazil on Thursday.
The committee, meeting in Brasilia, earlier postponed a decision on the issue for 24 hours to allow Thailand and Cambodia to iron out their dispute on the sidelines of the meeting.
The issue has been put on the agenda for 10am Brazil time, about 10pm Thursday Thailand time.
The postponement followed a protest in Bangkok and the Thai government’s threat to resign its membership of the committee if it approves Cambodia’s management plan.
Mr Suwit said Cambodia insists on pressing ahead with its management plan, which Thailand strongly opposes.
Speaking after a 45-minute discussion with Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, who heads the Cambodian delegation, Mr Suwit said he would work to his best ability to protect Thailand’s national interest, but that what actually happens is up to the decision of all 21 WHC members. He however hoped that the WHC will comprehend the adverse impact that might occur if it endorses Cambodia’s plan.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said in the afternoon that the conflict over Preah Vihear should be brought back into the framework of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed by Thailand and Cambodia in 2000.
The MoU was about demarcating the boundary of Preah Vihear temple. The work was carried out by the Thai-Cambodia Joint Commission on the Demarcation of the Land Boundary (JBC).
Mr Abhisit said the sidelines meeting between Thai and Cambodian diplomats during the World Heritage Committee meeting in Brazil had not been fruitful.
“Thailand has made it clear that we will accept Cambodia’s management plan for the temple only if the temple is jointly listed between the two countries,” he said.
The WHC approved Cambodia’s listing of Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site two years ago.
Responding to Cambodia foreign minister Hor Namhong’s comments that Cambodian troops would fire at Thais who intrude into the disputed land, Mr Abhisit said that Thai security forces were prepared in case of violence.
He also said that Thailand’s stance is not that much different from Cambodia’s.
In Phnom Penh, Thai charge d’affaires Chalotorn Phaovibul, said that the situation along the Thai-Cambodia border was normal following Thailand’s opposition to Cambodia’s management plan for the temple.
Mr Chalotorn said he believed Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen would not react until the World Heritage Committee decides whether to approve Cambodia’s management plan for the ancient Hindu temple.
Any reinforcement of troops along the border is normal, he said, adding that he has not received reports of any unusual situation there.
The Foreign Ministry has instructed him to monitor Phnom Penh’s reaction and reported back to Bangkok, he said.
No matter what the WHC’s decision would be, Mr Chalotorn said he believed Thailand and Cambodia would each refrain from violence and use diplomatic means to solve their conflict.