Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday he wanted to keep the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) and international involvement away from Preah Vihear temple.
Cabinet's move to maintain its objection to World Heritage listing for the site, which it achieved last year, was just reserving Thailand's right to handle boundary demarcation with Cambodia, he said.
Thailand signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Cambodia in 2000 not to make any change in regard to "overlapping" areas claimed by both countries before the completion of demarcation, he said.
"As the temple is listed as World Heritage, there will be more hands involved, which is contrary to the MoU," Abhisit told reporters before leaving for China.
Chulalongkorn University academic Chaiwat Khamchoo said the government's objection to Cambodia's plan would not benefit Thailand but only created conflict with its neighbour.
Somchai Phetprasert, chairman of House committee on military affairs, accused the government of pushing the country nearer to war. Prime Minister Abhisit should talk with Cambodia about a joint nomination for the temple, Somchai said.
"Prime Minister Abhisit might be confused over the boundary. The Unesco won't deal with the boundary issue but will help to protect the site in Cambodia," he said.
Supalak in a different Nation column:
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Thailand had to raise objections because Unesco and the World Heritage panel violated their own regulations and the listing ignited conflicts.
However, Abhisit never clarified which regulations were violated and whether Thailand's objections would force the panel to change its decision. Actually, nobody expects any changes because the objections are nothing new - they were filed during the World Heritage Committee's 32nd session in Quebec last July.
Abhisit said he opposed World Heritage status for the site because it might affect Thailand's right to claim land in an "overlapping" 4.6 square kilometres adjacent to the temple and any chance to "re-claim" the temple.
However, his concerns make little sense because the Unesco World Heritage Convention's Article 11 clearly says that "the inclusion of a property [in the World Heritage list] situated in a territory, sovereignty or jurisdiction, which is claimed by more than one state, shall in no way prejudice the rights of the parties to the dispute".
Thailand will not lose the right to demarcate its border with Cambodia and, in fact, the joint boundary demarcation committee is already working on the matter. Now, it is up to Thailand whether or not to send a representative to sit on the International Coordination Committee (ICC) as mentioned in Article 14 of the World Heritage listing. The committee was originally due to convene in February, but it has been delayed because Thailand has yet to make a decision.
Sadly, Thailand's move to maintain its objection is nothing more than a plan to delay Cambodia's work, which has only resulted in added tension.
Abhisit should really explain what he wants from sticking to his stance, how it would benefit the country and what would happen if his deputy does manage to cool Hun Sen down.
What I find interesting about these pieces in The Nation is that these may be the first instances where The Nation actually does any critical analysis of Abhisit's policies.
Normally The Nation whitewashes Abhisit's failures and stupidity by either blaming Thaksin, Suthep, the opposition or Bhoom Jai Thai party.
With everything on Abhisit's plate, you have to wonder why Preah Vihear has become such a burning issue.
There is no doubt in my mind that Abhisit is playing up the right-wing nationalist card to distract the media and the country from his policy failures.
What I find disturbing is that Abhisit is actually lying and he thinks he can do his typical shuck and jive and think everybody will fall in line.
The UNESCO decision and border demarcation are completely separate issues. UNESCO isn't going to de-list Preah Vihear based on these border issues. And it is Abhisit who is turning this thing into an international crisis and disturbing relations with Cambodia.
The notion that Abhisit can make things right by sending his personal henchman to Cambodia to sweet talk Hun Sen is a farce.
Abhisit re-ignited this crisis and he has nobody to blame but himself for inflaming an issue that doesn't need to inflamed--especially based on such moronic and baseless reasons.