The ancient Temple of Preah Vihear, which, according to UNESCO, dates back to the eleventh century and is dedicated to Shiva, rests on the Cambodian and Thai borders. Exactly which country can claim Preah Vihear has been a source of contention between the neighboring countries. In 1962, the International Court of Justice, acting on an application by the Cambodian government, ruled that the Temple is within Cambodian territory. In July 2008, UNESCO listed the Temple as a World Heritage Site, citing its “unique architectural complex.”
Photo below by paniek at Flickr.
Since the July 2008 inscription 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 behind the violence. Thailand has urged that UNESCO re-list the Temple so that it would be jointly managed by Thailand and Cambodia. The Mirror notes:
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.
But if the Cambodian press is failing to report on the implications of the listing, the Cambodian government is very much aware of the UNESCO designation. The Cambodian government recently recognized the one-year anniversary of UNESCO's listing with singing, dancing and speeches. Photos of the event are available on Monkgol's blog and at Khmerization.
Video of the festivities is available as well.
The animosity between the two countries has manifested online as well, as Kounila Keo points out in her post entitled “I Love Khmer vs. I Love Thailand” about competing websites ilovethailand.org
As hostilities continue, Sopheap Chak charges the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (“ASEAN”) for not fulfilling its duty to “promote regional peace and stability.” In an editorial published in UPI Asia, Chak writes that ASEAN's passivity in the Preah Vihear matter is unacceptable. Chak writes that “[i]t seems that ASEAN is simply irrelevant when it comes to member states’ security…[and that continued lack of action will mean] ASEAN cannot continue to be considered a crucial regional body.”