Despite a long-standing territorial dispute over land around the 11th century Preah Vihear temple, the 21-nation World Heritage Committee this week approved Cambodia’s application to register the site.
But the Thai government’s initial support for the listing sparked outrage in Thailand, leading to a political and legal battle that caused the foreign minister to resign Thursday and could lead to impeachment hearings for the entire cabinet.
Former Cambodian king Norodom Sihanouk (pictured) said in a handwritten communique that Thai critics of the deal, who allege that the main entrance of the temple is in Thailand not Cambodia, ignore “historic facts.”
Thai critics were “absolutely wrong” and stoke “meanness” which “causes undeserved and anachronistic grief to Cambodia and its people concerning the Preah Vihear temple, instead of devoting ourselves to harmonious and fruitful development of our friendship,” Sihanouk said.
Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong has stated that neither Cambodia nor Thailand lost any territory from the UNESCO ruling, but was concerned that flaring nationalist Thai sentiment could harm relations.
Last week, before the UNESCO ruling, riot police were deployed here to protect the Thai embassy for fear of violent protests.
Another temple spat in 2003 sparked a night of riots that saw Thailand’s embassy and several Thai-owned businesses burned and looted.
In 1962 the World Court ruled that the Hindu temple belongs to Cambodia, although the easiest access lies through an entrance in Thailand. The exact boundary through the surrounding area has caused years of disputes.