Thailand quick to withdraw allegation that Cambodia had “made up” history to claim Preah Vihear
Defence spokesman’s claim that Cambodia marked boundary unilaterally deniedJanuary 26, 2008
The Nation (Thailand)“if [Cambodia and Thailand] failed to settle boundary disputes, Unesco might reject the listing proposal [for Preah Vihear as a World Heritage Site]” – Adul Vichianchareon, Thailand’s National World Heritage Committee chairmanThe Defence Ministry yesterday rushed to retract statements made by a spokesman that Cambodia had “made up” history in a bid to claim the Hindu temple of Preah Vihear for Phnom Penh’s unilateral benefit.Top brass were urgently calling counterparts across the border yesterday to clarify statements made on Thursday by ministry spokesman Lt-General Pichsanu Puchakarn.Preah Vihear is a sensitive issue between Thailand and Cambodia. It heated up early last year, when Thailand blocked Phnom Penh’s attempt to list it as a United Nations World Heritage site. Bangkok asserted Cambodian listing documentation claimed land in “overlapping areas”.The International Court of Justice ruled in June 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia, but access to the site is mainly via Thailand. Phnom Penh has recognised some overlapping areas, according an official at the Thai Foreign Ministry.The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) agreed at a meeting in New Zealand in June last year to consider the heritage listing. It suggested Thailand and Cambodia jointly develop the site and agree on boundaries before a decision.Both countries concurred.The matter was at the heart of discussions between Thai Foreign Minister Nitya Pibulsonggram and his counterpart Hor Namhong in Phnom Penh in December.Cambodia praised Thailand for its offer of technical assistance in the restoration and maintenance of the ancient site.The military statement on Thursday was a surprise. Pichsanu said Cambodia had created a new boundary in order to claim sovereignty of the entire area and was campaigning for international support for this.He condemned Cambodia and demanded diplomats lodge an official protest with Phnom Penh.Yesterday the ministry changed its tune. Supreme Command civil-affairs chief Lt-General Plangkul Klahan and Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat said the previous day’s statement was incorrect.Anti-Thai sentiment is quick to emerge in Cambodia. Rioters set fire to the embassy in Phnom Penh in January 2003.Tharit said yesterday Thailand and Cambodia had agreed in 2000 to a joint boundary committee. No changes in the environment of the area will be made before boundary demarcation. “Both countries continue dialogue to find the best solution to listing the area as a World Heritage site,” he said.Thailand’s National World Heritage Committee chairman, Adul Vichianchareon, said that if they failed to settle boundary disputes, Unesco might reject the listing proposal.