The Listing of the Preah Vihear Temple Is Not the Reason for the Invasion by Siam on Cambodia – Tuesday, 7.7.2009

Posted on 8 July 2009. Filed under: Week 620 |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 620

“Phnom Penh: High ranking officials of the Royal Government of Cambodia again dismissed the unreasonable statement of the Bangkok government that the listing of the Preah Vihear Temple on 7 July 2008 led to armed conflict between Cambodia and Siam [Thailand].

“The Minister of the Council of Ministers, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, spoke to national and international reporters at the Phnom Penh International Airport on 5 July 2009, when he came back from the 33rd meeting of the World Heritage Committee in Sevilla in Spain. He added, ‘A few days before the 33rd meeting of the World Heritage Committee was held, we openly heard that Thai high ranking officials, such as the Thai Prime Minister, the Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the head of the Thai delegation had surprisingly attacked UNESCO and the World Heritage Committee, as they continue to oppose the decision of the committee to list the Preah Vihear Temple as a world heritage site. Thailand said that the listing of the Preah Vihear Temple led to military confrontations and instability along the Cambodian-Thai border. And Thailand asked the World Heritage Committee to recheck or re-list the Preah Vihear Temple to be jointly managed by Cambodia and Thailand or to exclude the Preah Vihear Temple from the world heritage list. This is a pretext of Thailand which links culture to politics and military affairs.

“Deputy Prime Minister Sok An went on to say that every year, the World Heritage Committee holds meetings, and he noticed that from year to year, there is more development and there are more participating countries that ask to list their national heritage as heritages of the world.

“Therefore, the meeting focuses only on culture, conservation, and development, but it is not a meeting to solve complaints or protests or border issues. Thus, the showing of a unilateral map by Thailand was not brought onto the agenda of the World Heritage Committee to be solved and discussed during the meeting.” Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #229, 7.7.2009

Note:

Based on the relevant UNESCO documents, and referenced here point by point, we bring additional information related to the procedures of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee and the listing of the Sacred Site of the Temple of Preah Vihear, which led to military confrontations, the loss of human life on both sides, and a sharp decline of tourism – all this has been reflected in different degrees in the Mirror during the last year.

Unfortunately, and to our surprise – in spite of the wide emotional concerns related to the Preah Vihear listing – the press in Cambodia has not reported much about the delicate and detailed legal and contractual arguments at the basis of the listing as a World Heritage Site, and the future obligations entered into by the Cambodian government.

Initially, the statement of Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, quoted above that the listing of a World Heritage Site does not solve unsolved border issues which remain as a challenge for negotiations between both governments, is firmly based on the basic document of the related international agreements:

“Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage

“Article 11,3

“The inclusion of a property in the World Heritage List requires the consent of the State concerned. The inclusion of a property situated in a territory, sovereignty or jurisdiction over which is claimed by more than one State shall in no way prejudice the rights of the parties to the dispute.”

The recent 33rd Session of the World Heritage Committee, meeting in Sevilla, Spain, 22 to 30 June 2009, provided a harsh reminder that a listing, once done, can also be removed again, if the original conditions are not met, when a city in Germany lost its position:

“Dresden is deleted from UNESCO’s World Heritage List

“The World Heritage Committee decided to remove Germany’s Dresden Elbe Valley from UNESCO’s World Heritage List due to the building of a four-lane bridge in the heart of the cultural landscape which meant that the property failed to keep its ‘outstanding universal value as inscribed.'”

Such a decision is based on the regular reviews of the State of Conservation, performed according to the following, clearly defined rules:

“The Format for the periodic reports by the States Parties consists of two sections:

  • “Section I refers to the legislative and administrative provisions which the State Party has adopted and other actions which it has taken for the application of the Convention, together with details of the experience acquired in this field…
  • “Section II refers to the state of conservation of specific World Heritage properties located on the territory of the State Party concerned.

“General Requirements

  • “Information should be as precise and specific as possible.
  • “It should be quantified where possible and fully referenced.
  • “Information should be concise. In particular long historical accounts of sites and events which have taken place there should be avoided, especially when they can be found in readily available published sources.
  • “Expressions of opinion should be supported by reference to the authority on which they are made and the verifiable facts which support them.”

An UNESCO press release announced elements of the heavy agenda for the recent meeting, indicating which national, and which transnational applications had been received:

  • “Thirty new properties in total were submitted for inscription on the World Heritage List this year: 4 natural, 23 cultural and 3 mixed (i.e. both natural and cultural) properties, including 4 transnational nominations. In addition, 7 extensions to properties already listed have been proposed.
  • “The Committee will dedicate a large part of the discussions during the session to review the state of conservation of 178 sites already inscribed on the World Heritage List. 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.”

A review of the listing of Preah Vihear was not on the agenda, as this has been planned – since 7 July 2008 – to be done during the World Heritage Committee meeting in February 2010.

We reproduce here the minutes of the 32nd Session of the Committee, meeting in Quebec City, Canada, 2 to 10 July 2008, including the section related to the concerns about the status of the listing of Angkor, and the section related to the new listing of Preah Vihear.

We are not aware that these have been widely published in Cambodia – neither in English nor in the Khmer language; if this is our oversight, we apologize and would appreciate to be informed where the Cambodian public – or the National Assembly – have been made aware of these important documents relating to the preservation of these most important examples of the Khmer cultural tradition.

“Angkor (Cambodia) (C 668), Decision: 32 COM 7B.65

“The World Heritage Committee,

  1. “Having examined Document WHC-08/32.COM/7B,
  2. “Recalling Decision 30 COM 7B.61, adopted at its 30th session (Vilnius, 2006),
  3. “Notes with satisfaction that a new ad hoc group of experts for sustainable development has been established and has become operational during 2007;
  4. “Welcomes the progress achieved through the project entitled “Angkor management plan”, in clarifying the challenges facing APSARA for the management and conservation of the property, as well as in defining the actions required to address them satisfactorily;
  5. “Also welcomes the proposal for the development of a “Heritage Management Framework”, which would complement the “Angkor management plan” project by focusing specifically on the conservation of the heritage values of the property, and strongly encourages the State Party to take this project forward as soon as possible;
  6. “Reiterates its serious concern for the continuing and increasing threats posed to the Outstanding Universal Value and integrity of the property by the ongoing uncontrolled urban expansion in the property and its buffer zones, despite the efforts made by the Cambodian authorities;
  7. “Requests the State Party to address these threats by ensuring swift and full implementation of the recommendations of the 2005 mission, and in particular to:
  8. “a) clarify, including by passing new legislation if necessary, the rules regarding property rights, ownership and building codes applicable to zones 1 and 2;

    “b) enforce existing laws regarding illegal occupation, unauthorized construction and development and park-land appropriation/alienation;

    “c) strengthen the capacities of APSARA to enable effective land use planning and management, including by providing it with the necessary resources;

  9. “Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Center, by 1 February 2010, a report on the progress made on the issues mentioned above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session in 2010.”

And relating to Preah Vihear, the following decision is in the minutes of the World Heritage Committee:

“Preah Vihear (Cambodia) Decision: 32 COM 8B.102

“The World Heritage Committee,

  1. “Having examined Document WHC-08/32.COM/INF.8B1.Add2,
  2. “Recalling Decision 31 COM 8B.24, which recognized ‘that the Sacred Site of the Temple of Preah Vihear is of great international significance and has Outstanding Universal Value on the basis of criteria (i), (iii) and (iv), and agreed in principle that it should be inscribed on the World Heritage List’,
  3. “Having noted the progress made by the State Party of Cambodia towards the development of a Management Plan for the property, as requested by the Committee by its Decision 31 COM 8B.24 in Christchurch, New Zealand,
  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 International Center for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property, for providing valuable expert input to this process,
  5. “Recognizing that the Joint Communiqué signed on 18 June 2008 by the representatives of the Governments of Cambodia and Thailand, as well as by UNESCO, including its draft which was erroneously referred to as having been signed on 22 and 23 May 2008 in the document WHC-08/32.COM/INF.8B1.Add.2, must be disregarded, following the decision of the Government of Thailand to suspend the effect of the Joint Communiqué, pursuant to the Thai Administrative Court’s interim injunction on this issue,
  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;
  8. “Recognizes that Thailand has repeatedly expressed a desire to participate in a joint nomination of the Temple of Preah Vihear and its surrounding areas;
  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 that could capture criteria (iii) and (iv), which had been recognized by the Committee in its Decision 31 COM 8B.24.
  12. “Inscribes the Temple of Preah Vihear, Cambodia, on the World Heritage List under criterion (i);
  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.

    • “Criterion (i): Preah Vihear is an outstanding masterpiece of Khmer architecture. It is very ‘pure’ both in plan and in the detail of its decoration.

    • “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. “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.”

The tasks are laid out clearly.

The map delineating the area of the Temple of Preah Vihear presented on 18 June 2008 had been withdrawn, but we are not aware that the revised graphic plan, submitted by Cambodia, indicating the revised perimeter of the area proposed for inscription on the World Heritage List – it “comprises only the Temple of Preah Vihear and not the wider promontory with its cliffs and caves” – has been made public.

We have also not observed press reports that Cambodia has, together with UNESCO, convene an international coordinating committee for the safeguarding and development of Preah Vihear not later than February 2009, inviting Thailand and other international partners, to examine policy matters relating to Preah Vihear. There had been very specific requests what should be included in the documents due by 1 February 2009, like a new provisional map of the inscribed property of the Temple of Preah Vihear, and a map delineating the buffer zone identified in the RGPP.

Nor are we aware of press reports about the process of preparation towards the submissions for examination by the World Heritage Committee, due in February 2010, to be elaborated in cooperation and in agreement with Thailand of a full Management Plan for the inscribed property, including a finalized map.

Surprisingly, it was reported that Mr. Hang Soth, the general director of Cambodia’s Preah Vihear National Authority, had disclosed, after the Sevilla meetings, that Cambodia had submitted conservation plans for Preah Vihear – though not by 1 February 2009, but only by 4 April 2009. Whether this was done – according to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee decisions of 2008 – “in collaboration with UNESCO” and an international coordinating committee, to which also Thailand was invited, is not so clear.

“‘We don’t understand why Thai leaders have said Cambodia has until next year to submit the plan,’ Hang Soth was quoted as saying by the Phnom Penh Post as seen yesterday on its website.

“‘We have already submitted our projects … Cambodians made the temple. Why can’t we conserve it?’ he said.

“Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said the Thai statements were meant to cover up their failure at the Unesco meeting in Spain, where they were unable to get their challenge to the Preah Vihear plan on the agenda.

“‘The Thai leaders’ comments are just to hide their failure to review the listing,’ he said.”

The real review of the listing is due, however, in February 2010, and there is still a lot to be done by that time.

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #229, 7.7.2009

  • [Minister of the Council of Ministers] Sok An: The Listing of the Preah Vihear Temple Is Not the Reason for the Invasion by Siam [Thailand] on Cambodia
  • Washington D.C. [the US government] Provides A/H1N1 Vaccines to the World Health Organization
  • President Obama Visits Russia for the First Time

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #1989, 7.7.2009

  • Due to the Financial Crisis, the Cambodian Economic Growth Declines to 2.1% in 2009 [according the Ministry of Economy and Finance]
  • Thailand Did Not Have Even Two Minutes to Mention the Preah Vihear Temple Case during the [UNESCO World Heritage Committee] Meeting in Spain
  • The Royal Government of Cambodia Calls on Development Partners and the International Community to Provide Funds for Mine Clearing Operations in Cambodia [it is estimated that there have been already more than US$200 million in aid granted to Cambodia for this field]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.42, #6695, 7.7.2009

  • Today at 11 a.m. Bells Will Be Sounding at Schools and a Khmer History Song Will Be Sung at Pagodas, and Drums Will Be Beaten to Mark the First Anniversary of the Listing of the Preah Vihear Temple
  • ECPAT Cambodia – End Child Prostitution, Abuse and Trafficking in Cambodia – Shows that There Were 139 Cases of Rapes and Human Trafficking during the Second Quarter [of 2009 – more information can be downloaded in Khmer and in English PDF files at http://www.ecpatcambodia.org/index1.php?pn=1]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.16, #37, .7.2009

  • The Golden Triangle Zone Is Still a Dangerous Drug Source for Cambodia
  • UNDP Shows that Weaknesses in Some Important Sectors [agriculture, tourism, garment, and construction sectors] Lead to the Economic Downturn in Cambodia

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #4939, 7.7.2009

  • Four Berkshire Dogs Bite a Bodyguard of the Sihanoukville Deputy Police Chief to Death [and eat some flesh Sihanoukville]
  • Lightning Killed Two Siblings while They Were Fixing Their Walls of Their Home [Stung Treng]
  • 140 People Died and 800 Are Injured in Unrest in China [conflict between a Muslim minority against the Han Chinese in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region – 新疆维吾尔自治区 – of the People’s Republic of China – older spelling was Singkiang. Links to the Chinese Xinhua news agency and to information from BBC]

Sereypheap Thmey, Vol.16, #1744, 7.7.2009

  • People: Military Police and Police Protect Illegally Cut Wood in Kompong Thom

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[…] by UNESCO, there has been violence in the region between Cambodian and Thai soldiers. However, as The Mirror reports, various Cambodian government officials have denied that the UNESCO listing is the reason […]

[…] by UNESCO, there has been violence in the region between Cambodian and Thai soldiers. However, as The Mirror reports, various Cambodian government officials have denied that the UNESCO listing is the reason […]

[…] by UNESCO, there has been violence in the region between Cambodian and Thai soldiers. However, as The Mirror reports, various Cambodian government officials have denied that the UNESCO listing is the reason […]


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