>PREAH VIHEAR: ‘No approval needed’ for heritage bid

>Samak (R) on his visit to Cambodia earlier this year with Hun Sen (L).

SARITDET MARUKATAT

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The joint statement by Thailand and Cambodia backing Phnom Penh’s bid to put Preah Vihear temple on the World Heritage list did not need approval from parliament, Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej said yesterday.

Mr Samak used his weekly national television address to explain the issue for the first time, saying the document attached to a map showing the boundary of the temple could be approved by the government.

”Article 190 cannot be applied to this,” he said.

The article states any treaty or agreement affecting Thai boundaries and sovereignty must be passed through parliament.

Mr Samak said the decision to ask the World Heritage Committee, which is under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), to approve the temple for listing was ”Cambodia’s business”.

Thailand only wanted to make sure the 4.6-square-kilometre area which both countries claim was excluded from the Cambodian plan, he added.

Some senators opposing the position had demanded the government get parliamentary approval for the statement, citing the consequences of the decision on future demarcation talks on the overlapping area between Kantharalak district of Si Sa Ket and the Cambodian province of Preah Vihear.

Krit Kraichitti, the director-general of the Treaties and Legal Affairs Department, said the joint statement was not a treaty because it only demonstrated support for the Cambodian bid.

”Preah Vihear is under Cambodian sovereignty and on Cambodian soil,” the Foreign Ministry official said.

The department has sole responsibility for all treaties and agreements affecting Thailand. Despite different opinions on the joint statement, it could not be defined as a document affecting Thailand’s sovereignty and borderlines, he said.

Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama and Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An signed the joint statement on Tuesday, soon after cabinet endorsement.

”The Thai support on this issue is Thailand’s political will. It has nothing to do with the treaty,” Mr Krit said.

The People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) has used the Preah Vihear issue to attack the government.

Its leaders urged the prime minister to stop the move to register the temple by Cambodia, saying it should not be a unilateral effort by Phnom Penh. They criticised the prime minister for admitting that the temple belonged to Cambodia.

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