Wednesday, 9 July 2008

The Preah Vihear Temple

PHNOM PENH, July 8 (Xinhua) -- Senior government officials issued statements and citizens took to the streets here Tuesday to celebrate the decision by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee to list the Preah Vihear Temple as World Heritage Site.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said that "it is a new pride for the Cambodian people as well as peoples in the world that the Preah Vihear Temple is recognized as top Khmer architecture and it has a universal values for the humanities."

"I would like to express my profound and honest thanks to all the people at all levels that always supported the government's work and expressed their understanding and patience to protect the national interests and make peace with the Thais as good friend and neighboring country," he said.

The Preah Vihear Temple is the third Khmer heritage listed as world heritage, after the Angkor Wat Temple in 1992 and the royal ballet style in 2003, he added.

Sok An, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Council of Ministers, said that the Cambodian-Thai ties won't be affected by the listing.

"Though Cambodia and Thailand may have had some differences of views regarding the listing of the temple, this issue has not in any way affected the long-standing ties of friendship and co-operation between our two kingdoms and peoples," he said.

The Cambodian government has a long-standing position that "the inscription of the temple will not affect nor prejudice the rights of Cambodia and Thailand on the demarcation work of the Joint Commission for Land Boundary of the two countries," he added.

Hor Namhong, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said that "the listing of the Preah Vihear Temple is the success of civilization and culture for the Khmer people."

The success didn't break the relationship and cooperation between Cambodia and Thailand, even as Thailand canceled the joint communique on the Preah Vihear Temple issues, he said.

Thailand didn't lose a centimeter of land to Cambodia and Cambodia didn't lose either for listing the Preah Vihear Temple, he said, adding that both sides have plan to plant demarcation posts in accordance with the border and geographic lines specified in bilateral treaty.

Meoung Son, president of the Khmer Civilization Fund, said that he will build a museum at 20,000 U.S. dollars for the Preah VihearTemple.

He appealed Thailand to hand over artifacts of the Preah Vihear Temple to the museum.

"The temple will become a potential tourist destination," he added.

Meanwhile on Tuesday afternoon, thousands of people went to the streets of Phnom Penh, danced, sang and waved Cambodian flags, chanting "Long live Preah Vihear Temple!"

Earlier Tuesday morning in Quebec, Canada, all the 21 members of the World Heritage Committee during its 32nd session unanimously approved the Cambodian application to list the temple as World Heritage Site.

The site of the building, which lies along the disputed Thai-Cambodian border, has long been a point of contention between the two Asian neighbors, Cambodia and Thailand.

Cambodia started seeking the status of World Heritage Site for the temple in 2001, hoping for influx of tourists and international funding that normally accompanies the designation.

But Thailand has vetoed its neighbor's submissions amid fears the status would include disputed land along the border.

In May, Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej's government bypassed the Parliament and endorsed Cambodia's application. Thai critics have accused him of violating the country's sovereignty, and the government withdrew its support late last month.

Fortunately for Cambodia, last minute efforts by the Thai delegation to delay the vote and to have joint management of the temple failed at Tuesday's session of the World Heritage Committee.

Last week, Cambodia shut up the gate at the temple after Thais conducted demonstration around. It also deployed police at the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh fearing that possible anti-Thai parade there.

Back to 1962, the International Court of Justice awarded the temple and the land it occupies to Cambodia, a decision that therefore rankles Thais. 2008-07-08

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