08/02/2010, 00.00
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UNESCO does not approve Cambodia’s plan for Phra Viharn temple

by Weena Kowitwanij
The four-page plan arrived late, according to UN body. Any decision about it is postponed to next year. The Phra Viharn temple is disputed by Cambodia and Thailand. Residents of Thai border villages are happy, hope to see an end of hostility between the two countries.
Bangkok (AsiaNews) – The World Heritage Committee in a unanimous vote has decided to postpone to next year the decision whether to accept the Cambodian government’s plan for the Hindu temple of Phra Viharn. Meeting in Brazil, committee members agreed that Cambodia’s four-page document was inadequate. Submitted only six weeks ago, the plan was not seen by the Thai side. Hence, it was not approved in its current state. Any further consideration will have to wait until next year’s committee meeting, in Bahrain.

The temple is located along the Cambodia-Thailand border. Both states claim it as its rightful owner. In 1962, the International Court awarded it to Cambodia, eliciting protest from Thailand. This was followed by border skirmishes over the site.

The temple is in Cambodian territory but is surrounded by jungle-covered steep hills claimed by Thailand. Access to the site from the Cambodian side is nearly impossible.

After years of talks, the issue flared up again in 2008, when the UNESCO World Heritage Committee granted the site world heritage status, which would have required Thailand to grant it access from its side of the border.

Residents in nearby villages in Srisaket Province are happy for the decision. “We are very glad to hear the good news,” they said. “The stress situation makes it impossible for us to earn our living by selling forest products to visitors, which people from both countries did in the past.”

In order to avoid the risk of more border clashes, Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban has called on the People Alliance for Democracy “not to gather at the border as it may lead to the political tension.”

Satisfied by the committee’s decision, he added that it “provided a good opportunity for Cambodia and Thailand to solve the problem peacefully.”

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