01 July 2008

Preah Vihear

The Preah Vihear temple sits in Cambodia and the staircase that runs up to the temple starts in Thailand. The temple had been at the center of a dispute that was resolved by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 1962. The ICJ's decision was that the temple belonged to Cambodia.

The Preah Vihear temple is located on a mountaintop and affords some breath-taking views over the vast jungles of Cambodia. It is a pretty inaccessible place but not off the radar for those die-hard travellers who want to witness some of the best ancient Khmer architecture outside of that at Angkor Wat. The Hindu temple has endured much since the 11th Century and seems set to endure a little more.

The temple despite its significance is not yet a UNESCO world heritage site. Thailand seemed to have finally agreed to let Cambodia lodge an application to have the temple listed as a world heritage site. Nevertheless, this sparked the ire of the Thai people. Some 100 of them tried to march on Cambodia as a protest of the agreement. Not to be left out, a Thai then issued an injunction which purports to prevent the Thai government from supporting the Cambodian bid to have the temple listed as a world heritage site.

I must be missing something here. Simply, the listing of the temple complex as a world heritage site is likely to attract much-needed tourism and a boost to the local economies around the temple. The additional visitors would also likely help offset some of the costs of maintaining the ruins.

It beats me why would Thailand want to block the listing? Unless they still harbour dreams of one-day getting the ICJ to go back and hand down a decision that says, oops the temple is not in the territory of Cambodia but in fact it belongs to Thailand. The operative word here would seem to be 'dream'.

Thailand needs to pull its head out of the sand and get on board with the Cambodian application. It serves the interests of both countries and delaying the listing of Preah Vihear as a world heritage site serves the interests of none!


wanna said...

I, as a Thai, do not mind if the listing is a joint listing. Then Thailand and Cambodia can take care of this place together. Yes, the temple belongs to Cambodia, but the SOIL belongs to Thailand. In my opinion, they can move the temple to Cambodian soil and take care to it by themselves. We have more than enough problems with the Cambodians staying near the temple ILLEGALLY.

Rob Baiton said...


Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. It is nice to get the Thai perspective on this.

My take though is still that not only does the ICJ decision say that the temple is Cambodian but that the soil it is on is Cambodian too. I haven't read the decision for many years and I will go back and read it over the next couple of days so as to be sure.

I agree that it needs to be a joint effort. The reality is that part of the temple complex clearly starts in Thailand.

Yep, camps at the Thai borders with Cambodia and Burma are ongoing issues that need to be resolved as well.

I guess my point about Preah Vihear was that it would be in the best interests of both Cambodia and Thailand to work this out and find a solution that was considered to be mutually beneficial.

I do not see the point though of Thailand battening down the hatches and refusing to play at all.

Just my view.

Once again, thanks for stopping by. Hope to see you again soon.