Cambodian temple named as world heritage site

Cambodia’s prime minister on Tuesday hailed the designation of an 11th-century Hindu temple as a world heritage landmark despite objections from groups in neighbouring Thailand, which claims the land around the site.

”This is a new pride for the people of Cambodia,” Hun Sen said in a statement a day after Preah Vihear temple was added to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (Unesco) World Heritage List.

Unesco spokesperson Joanna Sullivan said on Monday that the temple was designated a heritage site at a meeting in Quebec City.

The site of the building, which lies along the disputed Thai-Cambodian border, has long been a point of contention between the two Asian neighbours.

In 1962, the International Court of Justice awarded the temple and the land it occupies to Cambodia, a decision that still rankles Thais even though the temple is culturally Cambodian, sharing the Hindu-influenced style of the more famous Angkor Wat in north-western Cambodia.

Cambodia started seeking the status for the temple in 2001, hoping for the influx of tourism and international funding that normally accompanies the designation. In the past, Thailand has vetoed its neighbour’s submissions amid fears the status would include disputed land along the border.

But in May, Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej’s government bypassed Parliament and endorsed Cambodia’s application. Thai critics have accused him of violating the country’s soveriegnty, and the government withdrew its support late last month.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong has accused Thai opposition politicians of exploiting the cross-border dispute to advance their own domestic political agenda and warned they might endanger bilateral relations.

Tensions along the border boiled over last month when protesters threatened to evict Cambodians living in the disputed territory. Cambodia responded by closing access to the temple.

The successful inscription of Preah Vihear temple ”resulted from a very long and complicated process and negotiations”, Hun Sen said in his statement.

In a reassurance to Thailand, he added that the temple’s inscription ”does not affect” the negotiations to resolve problems of border lines between the two nations. — Sapa-AP

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