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Temple strains Thai-Cambodia relations ខែកក្កដា 8, 2008

Posted by សុភ័ក្ត្រ in News.
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By Raphael Minder in Bangkok

Published: July 7 2008 17:04 | Last updated: July 7 2008 17:04

A United Nations committee of culture experts is due to decide as early as Tuesday whether to override Thai objections and list a 900-year-old temple as a Cambodian World Heritage site, an issue that has strained relations between the two south-east Asian neighbours.

Noppadon Pattama, Thailand’s foreign minister, flew to Canada at the weekend to withdraw his country’s support for listing the temple. His 11th-hour intervention in a meeting of the World Heritage Committee in Quebec has also underlined domestic pressure on the fragile coalition government in Bangkok.

Thailand had originally agreed to support Cambodia’s application to register Preah Vihear, a Hindu temple whose grounds straddle a long-contested border area between the two countries. The International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled in 1962 the temple belonged to Cambodia, although it sits atop an escarpment forming a natural border between the countries.

While Thailand’s handling of the listing initially seemed little more than a sideshow, it has recently inflamed nationalist sentiment at a politically sensitive time in both nations.

The Thai government’s U-turn came after opposition politicians leapt on its initial support of the listing. They started legal proceedings against such a move and accused the government of yielding sovereign soil and making concessions to promote the Cambodian business interests of Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister and tycoon.

In Cambodia, meanwhile, the temple’s listing has become a political issue in the run-up to elections this month. The Thai embassy in Phnom Penh, which was torched in 2003 over a separate temple dispute, was placed under heavy security amid fears it could again become the target of anti-Thai demonstrators.

Abhisit Vejjajiva, leader of Thailand’s opposition Democrat party, told a meeting of foreign correspondents last week that the temple’s World Heritage claim should be shared between neighbours. “The rush [to list] can only bring conflict between the two people on the two sides of the border and quite likely lead to further disputes,” he said. “It just doesn’t make sense to list unilaterally a site covering overlapping claims.”

The UN committee may delay a decision on the temple to give more time for the countries to resolve their dispute.

ប្រភព៖ http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/6316a75e-4c3c-11dd-96bb-000077b07658.html?nclick_check=1

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