Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Cambodia's disputed Hindu temple joins heritage list

New York/Quebec - In one of the most controversial decisions of its eight-day meetings, UNESCO on Monday named a Hindu temple in Cambodia to the World Heritage list that has been under the cloud of a border dispute with Thailand for decades. Preah Vihear is a stunning clifftop temple dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva perched on the cliff that defines the Thai-Cambodian border.

Cambodia sought designation for the millennium-old temple, but Thailand has challenged the move over a border spat dating to a 1962 International Court of Justice ruling.

In a compromise in May, Cambodia agreed to redraw the inscription map, including only the temple, but the move would limit UNESCO's say over how Preah Vihear would be preserved, officials in Cambodia and Thailand have said.

Cambodia's compromise brought Thailand back on board, and the government signed a joint bid, but then withdrew its approval at the last minute in the face of massive public protests and an order by a ThaiAdministrative Court. At the last minute, Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama travelled to Canada to plead against the designation, but without success.

Thailand successfully blocked Cambodia's efforts to list Preah Vihear in both 2006 and 2007 on the grounds that the inscription map included a 4.6-square-kilometre piece of land in the temple compound that is still subject to a border dispute.

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