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08BANGKOK871 THAILAND’S VIEW OF THE PREAH VIHEAR TEMPLE ISSUE

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“146425”,”3/19/2008 10:27″,”08BANGKOK871″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”UNCLASSIFIED”,””,

“VZCZCXRO8991

RR RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM

DE RUEHBK #0871/01 0791027

ZNR UUUUU ZZH

R 191027Z MAR 08

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2326

INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS

RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0848

RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI 4963″,”UNCLAS SECTION

01 OF 02 BANGKOK 000871

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

PARIS PLEASE PASS TO USMISSION UNESCO

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 3/19/2018

TAGS: UNESCO, PREL, TH, CB

 

SUBJECT: THAILAND\’S VIEW OF THE PREAH VIHEAR TEMPLE ISSUE

 

BANGKOK 00000871 001.2 OF 002

 

——-

SUMMARY

——-

 

1. (SBU) Thailand supports UNESCO\’s inscription of the Preah Vihear

Temple as a World Heritage Site as long as Thailand\’s territorial

rights are preserved; the temple sits in Cambodian territory at a

point where the Thai-Cambodian border is not demarcated. As MFA

Deputy Director General for East Asian Affairs Pisanu Suvanajata

explained during a March 11 meeting, the RTG believes that to date

UNESCO had considered only Cambodia\’s perspective of the issue.

This was despite numerous attempts by the Thais to present their

case to Cambodia and the international community, including a

January 24 meeting in Paris with UNESCO\’s Assistant Director General

for Culture Francois Riviere. This lack of balanced information

culminated in Thailand\’s formal protest of and \”disassociation\” with

Cambodia\’s February 1 progress report to the World Heritage Center.

The Thais described the report as downplaying numerous topographical

and historical facts based solely on information provided by

Cambodian authorities. Throughout our meeting, Pisanu emphasized

that Thailand wanted to avoid overt politicization of an issue the

RTG currently viewed as relatively minor. In advance of the World

Heritage Center\’s vote on the matter in July, the RTG planned to

launch a proactive information campaign targeting World Heritage

Council members. End summary.

 

——————————-

BACKGROUND: WHOSE BORDER IS IT?

——————————-

 

2. (U) Situated on the edge of a 1,700 foot cliff and straddling the

Thai-Cambodia border, the Khmer temple of Preah Vihear has been a

point of contention between the two countries for more than 100

years. The source of the dispute is the border demarcation in the

immediate vicinity of the temple, an overlapping area of 4.6 square

kilometers. Cambodia relies on a 1907 map created by Thai and

French colonial authorities (then ruling Cambodia) that follows the

watershed line of the Dangrek mountain range, while Thailand prefers

an updated map depicting a slightly different version of the

watershed line south of the Cambodian boundary claim.

 

3. (U) In June 1962 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued

a judgment acknowledging Cambodia\’s sovereignty over the temple

complex. MFA Deputy Director General for East Asian Affairs Pisanu

Suvanajata stated that Thailand always respected the ICJ judgment on

sovereignty, but that the ICJ did not address the border dispute.

Following the ICJ decision, Thailand redrew its boundary claim to

put the actual temple (but not the supporting buildings and land

that comprise the rest of the complex) in Cambodian territory. But

the two governments never finalized their overlapping border claims.

As recently as 2003 the bilateral development commission

(established between Thailand and Cambodia following the January

2003 anti-Thai riots in Phnom Penh) agreed to jointly develop the

area of the Preah Vihear temple, but left resolution of the border

issue for an undetermined future date.

 

——————————————-

RTG\’S OPPOSITION TO HANDLING OF INSCRIPTION

——————————————-

 

3. (U) In a March 11 briefing, Pisanu, joined by colleagues from the

MFA\’s Department of Treaties and Legal Affairs, presented a clear

case as to why Thailand disagreed with Cambodia\’s approach to the

inscription of the Preah Vihear temple complex as a UNESCO World

Heritage site. The RTG\’s primary argument is that Cambodia

unilaterally submitted the nomination file to UNESCO without

consulting or informing Thailand and without acknowledging the

existence of conflicting border claims to the temple complex. In

July 2007, on the sidelines of the 31st session of the World

Heritage Committee, a \’Special Task Force on the Inscription of the

Temple of Preah Vihear as UNESCO World Heritage Site\’ met to discuss

outstanding issues preventing the temple\’s successful inscription.

The task force encouraged Cambodia and Thailand to develop an

appropriate management plan to ensure the conservation of the

temple.

 

4. (SBU) According to Pisanu, Thailand immediately offered Cambodia

several options for technical assistance and cooperation. But

instead of working together with Thailand, Cambodia independently

solicited management plans and technical reports from French,

Belgian, and U.S. specialists. Not until December 2007 did Cambodia

respond to Thailand\’s proposals by requesting a Thai version of a

management plan for the portion of the temple complex located in the

disputed and access areas. Thailand dispatched a group of Thai

experts to undertake a field survey at the temple site in early

January.

 

5. (SBU) Pisanu explained that Thailand\’s experts presented their

 

BANGKOK 00000871 002.2 OF 002

 

findings at a meeting convened by the Cambodian government for

interested parties January 11-13. The stated purpose of the meeting

was to exchange views on the various technical reports prepared for

the progress report Cambodia had to submit to the World Heritage

Center. The Thai experts concluded that the information used to

prepare the French, Belgian, and U.S. reports derived solely from

Cambodian authorities and that the findings of these foreign experts

misrepresented important topographical and historical facts.

Thailand felt this severely undermined the \”universal value of the

temple as a World Heritage Site,\” and could lead to \”serious

misunderstandings.\” However, Cambodia did not include the views

expressed by the Thai experts in the draft version of the progress

report. When Thailand complained, the UNESCO team and foreign

experts maintained that they had no mandate to consider boundary or

political issues.

 

6. (SBU) In response, Thailand lodged a formal protest before

Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and disassociated itself from

the report. According to Pisanu, Cambodia went ahead and submitted

the progress report to UNESCO with no mention of Thai opposition.

The progress report also included a new claim that the temple\’s main

entrance is not the primary staircase (which originates in Thai

territory), but an access area from the west (which originates in

Cambodian territory).

 

————————————

PRESERVING THAILAND\’S LEGAL POSITION

————————————

 

7. (SBU) Thailand believed in the importance of making permanent

arrangements for the proper development and conservation of the

Preah Vihear temple, stated Pisanu. The RTG\’s solution to the

dispute would be to engage Cambodia to agree to a legal document

that reserved each country\’s position on the border demarcation and

detailed what could and could not be done in the disputed area. The

idea would be to continue development of the temple as a World

Heritage site while the border issue was being resolved. As such,

rather than a unilateral inscription by UNESCO, Thailand would like

to see the temple complex treated as a transboundary property,

inscribed jointly by Thailand and Cambodia. Pisanu claimed that

this was the Thai position all along. When asked what the

Cambodians thought of this viewpoint, Pisanu responded he was

\”cautiously optimistic\” his counterparts were open to the idea.

 

8. (SBU) Thailand submitted a formal statement to the Cambodian

government during the first week in March again clarifying the Thai

position. The RTG is now awaiting a response before follow-up

meetings slated to occur later in the month. In the meantime,

Pisanu stated that the Thais are working hard to prevent the issue

from blowing out of proportion. The inscription decision is

scheduled to be made during the 32nd session of the World Heritage

Committee, to take place in Ottawa in July. In the lead-up to this

meeting, Pisanu explained that the RTG intended to treat this as a

technical issue, and wanted to avoid stirring up national

sentiments. However, he expressed concern that with national

elections to take place in Cambodia in late July, the Cambodian

government or even opposition parties would try to politicize the

issue to drum up support.

 

——-

COMMENT

——-

 

9. (SBU) Thailand clearly supports UNESCO\’s inscription of the Preah

Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site, and appears to espouse

concern for proper management and conservation of the temple

complex. At the same time, in the past 100 years Thailand has not

resolved this peculiar border dispute, and seems content to put off

final resolution indefinitely. Today, the vast majority of tourists

to the temple complex access it from Thai territory. UNESCO\’s

pronouncement of the temple as a World Heritage Site located in

Cambodia, and Cambodia\’s unilateral development of the site

(including an alternative access point from Cambodia) may slightly

diminish Thailand\’s tourism revenues. Thailand feels snubbed by

UNESCO officials, which the RTG claims are not taking Thailand\’s

concerns seriously, and now plans to take its argument to member

countries of the World Heritage Committee. Our briefing was one of

several Pisanu had scheduled this month. These briefings were to be

supported by an excursion trip the MFA\’s Department of International

Organizations was organizing for later this week for Bangkok-based

diplomats. The trip was to have included a visit to the Preah

Vihear temple. However, after the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok

protested that the RTG planned the excursion without seeking prior

authorization from the Cambodian government, the MFA canceled the

planned visit to the Preah Vihear temple.

 

John

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Written by thaicables

July 16, 2011 at 6:07 am

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