Cambodian King's aide seeks calm
Thu, Aug 05, 2010
The Nation/Asia News Network
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva interpreted a letter from the Cambodian king's adviser as a welcome gesture, saying the idea to make the Preah Vihear a symbol of reconciliation between the two countries sounded good.
"The Preah Vihear has historical and cultural values which could create peace and reconciliation between the people of two countries," he said.
"But if we take advantage of the issue for territorial boundary purposes, people on both sides won't accept it."
The Thai government has objected to the world heritage inscription on the Preah Vihear for fear of territory loss in the disputed areas adjacent to the temple.
In a letter to Abhisit recently, Prince Sisowath Thomico, an adviser to King Norodom Sihamoni, said the two countries should not use the territorial dispute to spoil "harmony" in the region.
"Raising territorial claims is a futile attempt that flies in the face of history, and that harms our people by diverting significant resources that could otherwise be invested in development," the prince's letter was quoted as saying by the Phnom Penh Post.
Abhisit acknowledged the letter but said he had not yet received the copy. It was unclear whether the letter is a personal idea or reflects real opinion in the Cambodian government, he said.
Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said the Thai government interpreted the letter as a personal one to express goodwill and cordial relations between the two countries.
The Foreign Ministry would read and offer an official interpretation of the letter later, he said.
The letter was sent when Thailand and Cambodia were both claiming victory over the World Heritage Committee's decision.
Thailand saw a victory in the committee's decision to consider the temple management plan at its next session in 2011, rather than reading reports submitted by Cambodia during the session in Brazil last week.
Thailand expressed its concern that Cambodia might take the areas to the west and north of the temple, which are subject of a border dispute with Thailand, as buffer zones for the heritage-listed property.
Cambodia argued it had not taken the areas - and the committee decision would not deter it from implementing the plan it had submitted to the committee months ago.Nationalist movements in Thailand are pressuring the government to oppose all Cambodian moves and activities at the Preah Vihear. They called on the government to use military force to exercise 'Thai sovereignty' in the disputed areas near the temple. "Peaceful ways might cause loss of territory," said Panthep Puapongpan, spokesman of the People's Alliance for Democracy.
Phnom Penh blamed Abhisit's government for provoking nationalism and for giving out misleading information over the world heritage for political gain.
The Preah Vihear's status was ruled on by the International Court of Justice in 1962. It is situated in territory under sovereignty of Cambodia, but nationalists in Thailand and Abhisit's government claim only the stone temple ruin belongs to Cambodia, not the surrounding areas.
Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen told the Cambodian people there was nothing to worry about over the border issue with Thailand, despite feelings heating up. The military leaders of both sides met and agreed to keep their troops in their stations.
Despite the current calm, Hun Sen said his troops were ready to protect the border from intrusion. http://news.asiaone.com/News/Latest%2BNews...805-230661.html
Temple dispute a minefield for Thai PM
Thu, Aug 05, 2010
The Nation/Asia News Network
THAILAND - Perhaps Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has finally realised that he jumped on the wrong bandwagon over the controversial Preah Vihear Temple because his yellow shirts have turned against him and his government, accusing them of losing Thai territory.
The nationalist People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) alleges that the government had already recognised Cambodia's right over the temple, and victory over the delay in the consideration of Phnom Penh's management plan means nothing.
It's strange but true that the PAD, which is supposed to back this government, is echoing Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An's claim that Natural Resource and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti had accepted and signed the World Heritage Committee's decision 34 COM 7B.66.
One of five points in the decision cited that the committee "welcomed" steps taken by the state party (Cambodia) toward the establishment of an international coordinating committee (ICC) for the sustainable conservation of Preah Vihear.
Establishing the ICC is good, because the temple has been given World Heritage status since 2008. It is a basic requirement to have such a body run a heritage property.
However, much to PAD's delight, Thailand declined Cambodia's invitation to sit on the ICC. Establishing the ICC is equivalent to implementing the management plan, and the "welcome" as well as Suwit's acceptance justifies its implementation.
Common sense tells you that being invited to participate in the management of a World Heritage property should be an honour for Thailand. However, this government thought that joining the committee would be equivalent to accepting and recognising Cambodia's sovereignty over the temple and surrounding areas.
According to an International Court of Justice ruling in 1962, the Hindu temple of Preah Vihear is situated in territory that is under the sovereignty of Cambodia.When Abhisit was opposition leader, he and his alliance PAD used a very strange argument - the court ruling was only on the ruins of the temple, not the area, which comes under the sovereignty of Thailand. In other words, Thailand accepted that the temple belonged to Cambodia, but not the land the temple is sitting on.
If Thailand recognised any activities - be they by Cambodia or the World Heritage Committee - in the area under question, it could be seen as recognising Cambodia's sovereignty, they said.
In reality though, the 250,000 square metres that the temple is sitting on was relinquished by a 1962 Cabinet decision to Cambodia. Like it or not, that land has already been given away.
The area that should be under dispute is the 4.6 square kilometres to the west and the north of the temple, as both sides claim it is theirs. In its management plan for Preah Vihear, Cambodia does not include the disputed area in the buffer zone. So, there's not much point in Thailand opposing the plan.
Yet, the PAD has been going beyond expectations - declaring that Cambodia dared to claim the temple's surrounding area because Phnom Penh used and Thailand recognised the French-Siamese joint boundary committee's 1:200,000-scale map. According to the PAD, the best thing would be for Thailand to reject this map.
Unfortunately though, it was a Democrat-led government under Chuan Leekpai that signed the memorandum of understanding for boundary demarcation in 2000. The pact recognised the map and Siam-Franco treaties as historical documents for boundary demarcation.
The PAD is mounting pressure on the government, while Abhisit is in a difficult position of having to steer away from his own rhetoric. He cannot fiercely oppose the PAD, because his Democrat Party and the PAD's New Politics Party share the same political bas.
The only option would be to blame Cambodia, but that's not easy either because border security and lives of people could end up being at stake. http://news.asiaone.com/News/Latest%2BNews...805-230660.html
I believe Cambodia has already made its claim and point very clear and is in no way seeking violence to solve this matter. It is up to the Thailand and its people to help guide their government to a peaceful resolution and friendly co-operation with Cambodia once and for all. So lets get this over with and lets all have a drink together