Thailand ready to go to war with Cambodia over Preah Vihear temple?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

OUTRAGE: Members of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) hold Thai national flags and placards during a rally to oppose the Cambodian plan on administering Preah Vihear Temple, a World Heritage Site, at Unesco's local office in Bangkok on Tuesday 27 July 2010. Thailand and Cambodia have been locked in nationalist tensions and a troop standoff at their disputed border since July 2008, when Unesco approved Cambodia's request to grant the 11th century Preah Vihear temple the World Heritage status. -- AFP

Thailand to defend rights over land dispute with Cambodia

Bangkok, Wednesday 28 July 2010
The Nation

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has vowed on 27 July 2010 to protect Thailand's rights and interests, as Cambodia makes moves to submit its management plan for Preah Vihear Temple and its adjacent areas at the Unesco World Heritage Committee meeting in Brazil.

The Thai delegation, led by Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti, is at the forum to lobby against the plan. The meeting runs until August 3.

"We think the World Heritage Committee should not consider this plan until Thailand and Cambodia have agreed upon the demarcation line," Abhisit said, after discussing the issue on Tuesday with some leaders of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD).

He met the yellow-shirt leaders for two hours after about 1,000 PAD supporters rallied outside the Unesco office on Sukhumvit Road despite the emergency decree.

Unesco recognised the ancient temple as a World Heritage Site in 2008. Preah Vihear, perched on a mountain on the Thai-Cambodian border, has been the source of a sovereignty dispute between the two nations for decades. In 1962, the International Court of Justice ruled that the temple belonged to Cambodia, but failed to make a decision on the land adjacent the complex, giving rise to constant spats between the two nations.

According to PAD co-founder Chamlong Srimuang, Thailand would lose more than 1.8 million rai of land to Cambodia if this management plan were to go ahead. Chamlong threatened to unseat Abhisit if he failed to protect Thailand's sovereignty.

However, after meeting the PAD leaders, Abhisit admitted that he and PAD view the issue from different perspectives. "But our intention is the same. We are committed to protecting our country's sovereignty and rights," the premier reiterated.

Abhisit promised that his government would not accept a resolution from the Unesco World Heritage Committee that could hurt the Kingdom's interests in any way.

"The resolution must not interfere with Thailand's territory or sovereignty," he said. "We will not cooperate if the management plan encroaches on our soil."

Abhisit also revealed that the Cabinet would discuss the issue today.

When asked if Thailand would withdraw from the Unesco World Heritage Committee if Cambodia's management plan were to be approved, Abhisit said: "There are many options. We may consider harsh measures."

He added that Unesco had already been told about his government's stance on the plan.

"The United Nations and its related agencies were established to promote peace. The Unesco World Heritage Committee needs to review why its world-heritage inscription often turns tourism zones into areas of conflict," he said.

Abhisit said Cambodia and Thailand had built up a military presence along the border to declare their rights without confrontation for a while now, and though he agreed to discuss the issue with PAD leaders yesterday, he would not bow to their pressure about what his government should do.

PAD spokesman Panthep Puapongpan told the ASTV that Abhisit did not agree with the PAD suggestion that the government cancel the memorandum of understanding on demarcation signed with Cambodia in 2000.

He said the PM also rejected the PAD suggestion that Thailand force Cambodian soldiers and people out of the disputed area.

"The prime minister said his government would exercise its right to protest, and did not want to see the dispute develop into a war," Panthep said.

He said Abhisit also disagreed with the idea of not sending a team to the Unesco World Heritage meeting, even though the PAD believes a boycott would be more effective.

However, Panthep admitted that the PAD agreed with Abhisit's plan to not accept Cambodia's map.

"It would be a violation of Thailand's sovereignty," he said.

After learning of the meeting results, the PAD protesters dispersed peacefully.


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