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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Cambodia FM: Thailand threatens Cambodia and UNESCO over Preah Vihear temple

Top Thai leaders are using the words to threaten Cambodia and UNESCO over listing Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple as World Heritage Site, a senior Cambodian official said on Saturday.

Hor Namhong, deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation told reporters at a press conference at the ministry that Thai prime minister, deputy prime minister and foreign minister are using words of lack of thoughts on the matter of the belongs of Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple and sending a threaten message to UNESCO before the meeting of World Heritage Committee to be held in Spain on June 23.

UNESCO agreed to register Perah Vihear temple as World Heritage Site of Cambodia in July 7, 2008. But since then from July 15, troops from both Cambodian and Thailand have confronted at the border near Preah Vihear temple.

Hor added that Thai leaders wanted to review about registering Preah Vihear temple (of Cambodia) with the Committee of World Heritage of UNESCO and also wanted to register jointly for Preah Vihear temple. "Preah Vihear temple and land surrounding areas belongs to Cambodia not Thailand according to the verdict of World Court's rule in 1962," Hor stressed.

"It is big mistake and serious one that were created by Thai leaders," he said, adding that they have spoken without thoughts.

"If they want to have armed conflicts for third time, we welcome," he said, adding "today we have known that Thai command for second region put their troops on alert, our troops also is ready for fighting, but so far the situation there is calm."

Moreover, Hor Namhong said "the border tension was caused by Thai side. We (Cambodia) want to resolve the border issue peacefully and friendly. But our effort made no result."

"Military tension has not occurred yet today, but tomorrow I do not know," Hor said, adding that Preah Vihear temple already registered as cultural and humanitarian matters for all people.
"We are ready to deal border issue with Thailand by using peaceful resolution, international law, military, or diplomatic ways," he noted.

According to Thai newspaper The Bangkok Post on Wednesday, that Thai Prime Minister Abhisit would request that UNESCO's World Heritage Committee review last year's decision to register Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site when the body convenes its annual meeting later this month in Spain. He would also request that the temple be registered jointly as a World Heritage Site by Thailand and Cambodia.
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Exploring Temples Outside Angkor

The crumbling ruins of Beng Mealea are a 90-minute drive from Angkor but a world away from the better-known area's tourist crush. (By John Burgess For The Washington Post)

Getting to Banteay Chhmar from Angkor takes about four hours, maybe longer. And in Cambodia you need to be game for some adventure, or at least for some delays. But other ancient sites beyond Angkor can be reached more quickly.

The 12th-century temple complex of Beng Mealea lies about 1 1/2 hours by road -- a good road -- east of Angkor. Being so close, it has some tourist bustle, but nothing like Angkor's.

The temple was built at roughly the same time as Angkor Wat and shares many of its style characteristics. Perhaps Beng Mealea was a trial lab for the better-known temple's style. Visit and you may wonder: If the ancient Khmers had Beng Mealea, why would they need Angkor Wat?

It's a mysterious maze of dark corridors and hidden chapels, of crumbling libraries and courtyards. For a true grasp of size, walk the temple's eastern causeway: You'll have to go close to half a mile, crossing a moat and passing holy ponds, before you come to steps and the remains of a platform that mark the temple's farthest limits.

Another site, Koh Ker, lies an hour and a half beyond Beng Mealea by a generally rough road. If you go, make sure to stop at the first bridge you come to, just a few hundred yards beyond Beng Mealea. In the streambed below is an ancient quarry; you can see the outlines of blocks of sandstone that were cut away, probably to be floated downstream to Beng Mealea.

Koh Ker is an area, not a single temple, that for centuries was a center of provincial culture. In A.D. 928, when its prince became King Jayavarman IV, the capital came to him, rather than vice versa, for reasons perhaps related to his feuding with the previous king.

Today Koh Ker has dozens of stone creations, some large and imposing, some small and intimate. The most spectacular is a complex that is three temples in one, including the Prang, the largest pyramid that Khmer architects built. Faced in sandstone, it has seven levels and stands about 115 feet tall. This was Jayavarman IV's state temple.

From that complex, we drove a circuit through wooded land, coming to smaller but still remarkable temples every few hundred yards. Prasat Krachap has many images of the god Shiva. Banteay Pichean has two brick towers standing in front of a collapsed central sanctuary. At those places and others, I encountered only a guard who was posted there to prevent art theft.

Without question, the most spectacular of the Khmer monuments outside Angkor is Preah Vihear, built atop a 1,700-foot cliff. The visitor ascends a long stone-paved avenue, arriving at ever-larger holy buildings. At the top is the main sanctuary and, a few steps beyond, a jaw-dropping view of Cambodian countryside.

But for now, Preah Vihear is best left off your schedule. Situated in Cambodia right at the border with Thailand, it has since last year been the scene of a military standoff between the two countries' soldiers. This is the latest flare-up in a long feud over the temple, which the World Court ruled in 1962 belonged to Cambodia.

But if on a future trip the soldiers have left, give thought to a visit. Going from Siem Reap is daunting: perhaps five hours each way over very rough roads, then a hike or motorcycle taxi in the heat up the cliff. Accommodations are minimal. The more comfortable and common way to reach the temple, assuming the border is open, is from Thailand. Thai tour companies can make the arrangements.
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Preah Vihear appeal 'targets UN, not Cambodia'


Thailand's objection to the listing of Preah Vihear as a World Heritage site is directed at the World Heritage Committee and Unesco and not at Cambodia, Foreign Affairs Minister Kasit Piromya said yesterday.

He said Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti, who will attend next week's World Heritage Committee meeting as an observer, would brief the panel's chairman beforehand regarding Thailand's objection to unilateral listing of the temple, which sits on the border between the two countries.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told reporters yesterday that soldiers would be ready to defend their territory again if necessary.

"Cambodia welcomes Thailand militarily, diplomatically, internationally or through peaceful negotiations," Hor Namhong said. "[Border fighting] has happened twice ... If they want to send their troops to Cambodia a third time, they are welcome to," he said

"I hear the Thai second in command on the border has put his troops on alert, and I'd like to tell him that Cambodian soldiers are on alert too," Hor Namhong added.

The World Heritage Committee is part of the United Nations' Educa-tional, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).

"This issue is between Thailand and the World Heritage Committee and Unesco, and not between Thailand and Cambodia," said Kasit, noting that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva had said that Cambodia was not involved.

Kasit declined to say whether the Thai action would affect the decision last year to register Cambodia's unilateral listing of the Hindu temple because it was up to the committee and Thailand was attending not as a member but as observer.

He said the meeting also had other matters on its agenda and might also act on Thailand's proposal of other historical sites for World Heritage status.

Abhisit said yesterday that Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban would meet Cambo-dian Prime Minister Hun Sen next week in order to clarify Thailand's objection to the listing of the Preah Vihear Temple ruins as a World Heritage Site.

Abhisit said that he did not expect conflict between the two countries to worsen. The Cambodian leader last week expressed "deep regret" after Thailand announced its intention to ask the World Heritage Committee in Seville, Spain, next week to review last year's decision.

Hun Sen said the issue had not been raised when Abhisit met him in Phnom Penh last week.

The Thai premier, however, expressed hope yesterday that after meeting Suthep in Cambodia Hun Sen would better understand Thailand's stance.

"I haven't talked to [Hun Sen] or the Cambodian ambassador, but I do not think this will worsen the situation and believe the discussion will clarify the matter," Abhisit said.

Suthep is also expected to discuss with Hun Sen the Thai-Cambodian demarcation of overlapping sea areas during his visit to Phnom Penh, according to Abhisit.

Unesco approved Cambodia's application for Preah Vihear to be designated a World Heritage site last July. The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia, but armed clashes have since then occurred periodically near the temple, especially in a 4.6-square-kilometre disputed area.
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