Thai court orders suspension of gov't support for Cambodia's world heritage temple bid 2008-06-28 18:58:54   Print

    BANGKOK, June 28 (Xinhua) -- Thailand's Administrative Court issued an injunction Saturday on the government to suspend any move endorsing Cambodia's bid to list the Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site.

    The 12 judges voted nine to three to support the injunction, issued on early Saturday morning, days after the anti-government group People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) petitioned the Court to nullify a cabinet resolution on June 17, which endorsed a new map of the Preah Vihear temple drawn by Cambodia.

    The supporting judges cited that the demarcation of overlapping areas between the two neighboring countries has not been completed, yet Cambodia's new map also indicated areas surrounding the temple at the Thai-Cambodian border.

    On June 18, Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama signed a Thai-Cambodian Joint Communique, which stated Thailand's support for Cambodia's application to the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to list the temple as a World Heritage Site.

    Cambodia is scheduled to present the communique and the map as key documents in its proposal to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in a meeting in Canada next month.

    Foreign Ministry's Director General for Treaties and Laws Krit Kraijitti was quoted by The Nation news website as saying that the ministry could appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court.

    He added that the injunction has no effect on Cambodia's bid as the World Heritage Committee will have the final say on the matter with or without Thailand's support.

    Prime Minister's Office Minister Chusak Sirinil said the cabinet will wait for the Foreign Ministry to consider the court injunction before taking subsequent actions.

    The PAD has petitioned the Administrative Court on Tuesday, asking it to nullify the cabinet resolution. The group said endorsing Cambodia's World Heritage bid could compromise Thailand's national sovereignty in future demarcation of disputed border areas between the two countries.

    Another group of senators, academic and civil society representatives have also petitioned to the UNESCO to seek postponement of consideration on Cambodia's Preah Vihear bid, arguing that the plan should be proposed by Thailand and Cambodia together because the temple is a transboundary asset.

    The controversy over the temple has become a hot issue and a focus of the PAD in their campaign to bring down the government led by Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej. Both Samak and Noppadon were harshly grilled by the opposition Democrat Party in a no-confidence censure debate from Tuesday to Thursday.

    Samak and Noppadon have argued that Thailand has long lost the right to claim the temple, as it never disputed a 1962 ruling by the International Court of Justice which said that the temple complex belonged to Cambodia, and that the new map and the communique did not involve any overlapping territory around the temple.

    The PAD welcomed the injunction on Saturday. Pipop Thongchai, acore leader of the PAD, which has staged demonstrations since May 25 in central Bangkok demanding Samak to step down, called the court decision a "victory of the people".

    He also urged Foreign Minister Noppodon to resign to take responsibility.

    Historically, both Thailand and Cambodia have claimed the ancient temple complex, and a 4.6-square kilometer area adjacent to the temple is in an overlapping zone over which Thai and Cambodian governments have yet to settle the demarcation.

    The Khmer-styled temple complex, dated back over 10 centuries ago, stands atop a cliff. The only practical access to the temple is from the Thai side in Kantharalak district of the northeastern province Si Sa Ket.

    Si Sa Ket residents have staged protests after the government endorsed the map. They also wanted the Cambodian community living in the disputed border area to move out.

    The Cambodian government proposed to the UNESCO to put the temple on the World Heritage list last year. The UN agency suggested it would consider the application until after the Thai and Cambodian sides settled the dispute with an agreement.

Editor: Sun Yunlong
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