Why Are the Thai-Cambodian Relations Not Kept More Transparent? – Sunday, 21.6.2009

Posted on 22 June 2009. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 617 |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 617

On Saturday, 13.6.2009, we carried the translation of a very positive retrospect: A Meeting between Hun Sen and Abhisit Vejjajiva Leads to Many Good Results and Proceeds in Good Atmosphere, based on statements by an assistant of the Cambodian prime minister. Now, some days later, the climate has definitely deteriorated. What has caused this change of the atmosphere?

Media in Thailand and then in Cambodia reported that the Thai prime minister had said Thailand would request that the UNESCO World Heritage Committee review the listing of the Preah Vihear temple, when this committee meets for its 33rd Session next week. And he added that the inscription of the Preah Vihear Temple so far had led to conflict between the two countries – an undeniale sad reality.

The rection of the Cambodian prime minister was very strong. These are the words as reported in a publication in Thailand:

“I think that as a prime minister of one country, his words infringed on the sovereignty of [Cambodia],” Hun Sen said, adding that during his visit last week to Phnom Penh, Abhisit failed to raise the issue in talks with the government.

I hope that his aim will not be successful, and I hope that UNESCO will not be stupid enough to go along with his gambit.”

We do not know which words were actually used, and what is an extended interpretation by the media or a result of the translations between Thai, English, and Khmer back and forth.

But there are sections in documents from 2008 to which we have repeatedly referred in the Mirror, pointing out that they were – as far as we could find out – never translated into Khmer for publication in the Khmer language press, containing important elements also relating to the present discussions. We quote some sections from them again:

World Herigage Committee Decision: 32 COM 8B.102

The World Heritage Committee,

. . .

4. Expressing gratitude to the governments of Belgium, the United States of America, France, and India for providing support for the work of experts to assist in this effort, and to the governments of China and Japan, as well as ICCROM, for providing valuable expert input to this process,…

6. Noting that the State Party of Cambodia submitted to the World Heritage Center the revised graphic plan of the property (RGPP) included in WHC-08/32.COM/INF.8B1.Add2 (hereinafter called ” RGPP”) indicating a revised perimeter of the area proposed for inscription on the World Heritage List,

7. Decides, on an exceptional basis, to accept, in view of the multilateral process leading to the elaboration of the supplementary report submitted in May 2008 by the State Party of Cambodia at the request of the UNESCO World Heritage Center, the information submitted by the State Party beyond the deadline established in the paragraph 148 of the Operational Guidelines;…

9. Notes that the property proposed for inscription is reduced and comprises only the Temple of Preah Vihear and not the wider promontory with its cliffs and caves;

10. Considers further that archaeological research is underway which could result in new significant discoveries that might enable consideration of a possible new transboundary nomination, that would require the consent of both Cambodia and Thailand;

11. Encourages Cambodia to collaborate with Thailand for safeguarding the value of the property, in view of the fact that peoples of the surrounding region have long treasured the Temple of Preah Vihear, and agrees that it would be desirable in the future to reflect its full values and landscape setting through a possible additional inscription to the World Heritage List…

12. Inscribes the Temple of Preah Vihear, Cambodia, on the World Heritage List…;

13. Adopts the following Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:

The Temple of Preah Vihear, a unique architectural complex of a series of sanctuaries linked by a system of pavements and staircases on an 800 meter long axis, is an outstanding masterpiece of Khmer architecture, in terms of plan, decoration and relationship to the spectacular landscape environment.

Authenticity, in terms of the way the buildings and their materials express well the values of the property, has been established. The attributes of the property comprise the temple complex; the integrity of the property has to a degree been compromised by the absence of part of the promontory from the perimeter of the property. The protective measures for the Temple, in terms of legal protection are adequate; the progress made in defining the parameters of the Management Plan needs to be consolidated into an approved, full Management Plan;

14. Requests the State Party of Cambodia, in collaboration with UNESCO, to convene an international coordinating committee for the safeguarding and development of the property no later than February 2009, inviting the participation of the Government of Thailand and not more than seven other appropriate international partners, to examine general policy matters relating to the safeguarding of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property in conformity with international conservation standards;

15. Requests the State Party of Cambodia to submit to the World Heritage Center, by 1 February 2009, the following documents:

a) a provisional map providing additional details of the inscribed property and a map delineating the buffer zone identified in the RGPP;

b) updated Nomination dossier to reflect the changes made to the perimeter of the property;

c) confirmation that the management zone for the property will include the inscribed property and buffer zone identified in the RGPP;

d) progress report on the preparation of the Management Plan;

16. Further requests the State Party of Cambodia to submit to the World Heritage Center by February 2010, for submission to the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session in 2010 a full Management Plan for the inscribed property, including a finalized map.

It has – to our knowledge – not been reported in the Khmer press, that a number of the conditions described in the World Heritage Committee’s decision of July 2008, requiring international cooperation, and specifically cooperation between the governments of Cambodia and the government of Thailand, have been or have not been fulfilled. If we missed to see such reporting in the Khmer language press, we would highly appreciate to be informed about relevant sources.

It is therefore not just an idea of the Thai prime minister, but it is part of the UNESCO World Heritage procedure, to reconsider pending problems, as can be seen in the UNESCO announcement for the next World Heritage Committee to meet in Sevilla, Spain, from 22 to 30 June 2009.

The World Heritage Committee will consider requests for the inscription of new sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List when it meets for its 33rd session in Seville, Spain, from 22 to 30 June 2009.

Thirty new properties in total were submitted for inscription on the World Heritage List this year:

. . .

The Committee will also review the state of conservation of the 30 World Heritage properties inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger and may decide to add to that list new properties whose preservation requires special attention. The List in Danger features sites which are threatened by a variety of problems such as pollution, urban development, poorly managed mass tourism, wars, and natural disasters, which have a negative impact on the outstanding values for which the sites were inscribed on the World Heritage List.

When the Club of Cambodian Journalists held the Fifth Editors’ Forum of Cambodia under the motto ‘Assessments by Editors of the Situation of Access to Information’ on 27 December 2008, a report on their findings and requests “to play a better role as conveyor of messages from citizens to the Royal Government and from the Royal Government to citizens,” specifically mentioned also as a problem:

Access to information related to the Preah Vihear border disputes

In spite of the questions left open by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, and the specific requests for further clarification, including between the governments of Cambodia and Thailand stated in the UNESCO documents, it is surprising that the Khmner press, which carried varios critical articles about the fact that Thai representatives, during some border meetings, used the Thai language version – Pra Viharn referring to the Preah Vihear temple – while the Khmer press did not translate and publish the UNESCO World Heritage Committee decisions in Khnmer. It seems that the Khmer public is not much aware about what the Khmer government representative in this process actually agreed upon.

To do so would not only show what actually – and in detail – was decided. It would also be a contribution to inform the Khmer reading public about that some of the often repeated claims “that there is nothing to be discussed with Thailand anymore – everything is clear” is not true. The hard work to elaborate the details and to work towards mutual agreements has not yet started.


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One Response to “Why Are the Thai-Cambodian Relations Not Kept More Transparent? – Sunday, 21.6.2009”

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Chéri,
Je vous transmets quelques lectures sur le conflit khmero-thailandais à propos de Temple de Preah Vihear


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