Thailand oppose Cambodia’s decision to list Preah Vihear as World Heritage site, warns about armed confrontation
Army warns dispute could have repercussionsFriday January 25, 2008
Bangkok PostThe Defence Ministry is concerned about Cambodia’s tough stance on seeking World Heritage listing of Preah Vihear, the ancient Khmer ruins on the Thai-Cambodian border. Defence Ministry spokesman Pichasanu Putchakarn said Cambodia has ignored the government’s suggestion the two countries jointly propose the historical site for Unesco listing. If Cambodia does it alone, it is feared that Thailand may lose its land around the ancient sanctuary, which has yet to be demarcated, he said.”Thailand has to think of its national interests. We may protest to the Cambodian government through diplomatic channels and try to explain to other countries that Thailand has tried to cooperate with Cambodia in requesting the World Heritage listing of the sanctuary together.”But Cambodia went ahead with the request unilaterally. We may also have to condemn Cambodia if the country still tries to do it alone,” he said. There was a possibility the dispute could affect diplomatic relations between the two nations, he said.Thailand and Cambodia each assert sovereignty over some areas around Preah Vihear, known as Khao Phra Viharn in Thailand.The World Court has judged the ancient ruins as being part of Cambodia. However, the two countries have not come to a demarcation agreement on some immediate border areas around the sanctuary.Lt-Gen Pichasanu said the World Heritage listing could lead to the disputed areas being annexed by Cambodia which, he said, has tried to rally international support for the sanctuary to be given Heritage status.He said the issue was significant and therefore warranted immediate government attention.Defence Minister Boonrawd Somtas felt the new government should put the issue on the national agenda, he said.The country should also prepare for unrest which could arise from the dispute, which could provoke military hostilities along the border.Second Army commander Sujit Sithiprapa said the army has notified Cambodian authorities it would like them to stop paving a road to the entrance of Preah Vihear because it could disturb the disputed area.Because the sanctuary is perched atop a hill, entry has to be made from a point on the Thai side of the border.The road’s construction should be put off until the two countries have settled the demarcation issue, Lt-Gen Sujit said.He said Cambodian soldiers had been deployed along the border zones leading to the sanctuary.He had ordered his troops deployed to police the border as well.Despite this, soldiers from the two countries retained close ties.Gen Boonrawd voiced concern over a possible confrontation, saying top-levels discussions were needed to resolve the issue amicably.