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Friday, February 25, 2011

UNESCO special envoy supports bilateral talks to defuse Thai-Cambodian border dispute

BANGKOK, Feb 25 -- The visiting United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) special envoy on Preah Vihear temple Koichiro Matsuura met Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and said he supported the bilateral talks between Thailand and Cambodia to solve border disputes.

Mr Abhisit told reporters after meeting with Mr Matsuura for 45 minutes at Government House that UNESCO had expressed its support to the bilateral talks and would not visit the Preah Vihear temple, a flash point of the conflict between the two countries.

The premier said he believed the tension would be eased at certain level and UNESCO said there should be conclusion on the 4.6 square kilometre contested area near Preah Vihear temple before going to the next step of a management plan for the ancient temple which was listed as a World Heritage Site.

Thailand and Cambodia agreed not to add more problems in the area and UNESCO believes that the problem should be settled before June, whe the World Heritage Committee will meet in Bahrain.

The ASEAN foreign ministers meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, earlier this week agreed that Thailand and Cambodia should use a bilateral mechanism to end their border conflict, including the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission (JBC), the General Border Committee (GBC) and the Regional Border Committee (RBC).

The JBC is expected to be held in March in Indonesia.

Earlier, Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya on Friday met Mr Matsuura, who admitted that [agreeing and implementing] a management plan for the ancient temple would be difficult in the current situation, according to Thai foreign ministry spokesman Thani Thongphakdi.

Mr Thani, Foreign Ministry Director-General of the Department of Information, said Mr Kasit has taken this opportunity to provide the envoy with the facts relating to the recent border clashes between Thai and Cambodian troops.

Mr Matsuura, a former director-general of UNESCO (1999-2009) and a former chairman of the World Heritage Committee (1999), was appointed by Director General Irina Bokova to discuss with Thailand and Cambodia measures to safeguard the temple, which was listed as a World Heritage site in 2008.

The UNESCO delegation will fly to Phnom Penh on Sunday for talks with Cambodian officials on ways of reducing tension and promoting dialogue on the preservation of the temple.

Tension along the Thai-Cambodian border was renewed after clashes between soldiers of the two countries erupted near the ancient Preah Vihear temple on Feb 4, leading to casualties among troops and civilians of both sides, as well as forcing the evacuation of villagers living in and on both sides of the disputed area. (MCOT online news)

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