Thailand has not lost anything but gained a lot of benefits from the deal with Cambodia over the World Heritage listing of Preah Vihear Temple.
Phnom Penh always referred to the Frenchmade map to indicate its boundary in the area. That’s the reason why Cambodia initially claimed 4.6 square kilometres over the area for the Preah Vihear buffer zone in its proposal.
Thailand also claimed sovereignty over the area in accordance with its own map.
As Cambodia agreed to revise the graphic plan of the property for World Heritage listing, it meant Cambodia recognised that the area was an “overlapping area”, said Deputy Director of East Asia Affairs Pisanu Suvanajata.
Legally speaking, such recognition would benefit Thailand in future negotiations with Cambodia over the boundary demarcation, he said.
The deal with Cambodia to list the Hindu temple has caused political difficulties for Samak Sundaravej’s government as senators, the opposiฌtion Democrat Party and street protests by the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) accuse the Cabinet of losing territory over the temple and the surrounding area.
The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia since it is sitฌuated in territory under the sovereignty of Cambodia. The Cabinet under the leadership of dictator Sarit Thanarat agreed to relinquish some 250,000 square metres of territory where the temple sits to Cambodia.
The senators, opposition and the PAD interpreted the ICJ’s ruling difฌferently, saying that only the ruins belong to Cambodia but the soil on which the temple sits belongs to Thailand.
Allowing Cambodia to list the temple means loss of sovereignty. The Constitution Court, at the request of some senators, ruled the joint communique signed by former foreign minister Noppadon and Cambodia’s Deputy Prime Minister Sok Anh to support Cambodia’s application was a treaty which might cause a change to Thai sovereignty.
The communique was ruled unconstitutional and Noppadon was forced to quit.
It was the first time domestic political sensitivity over the temple had been acknowledged by the World Heritage Committee since the body consistently insisted listing had nothing to do with sovereignty.
Documents from Thailand earlier to support the application were withdrawn during a meeting of the committee in Quebec last week, according to the head of Thailand’s world heritage committee Pongpol Adireksarn.
Pisanu said to gain the attention of the World Heritage Committee over the area around Preah Vihear, Thailand intended to apply for an archaeological site downhill as an adjoining nomination to the listed site. He said the Hindu temple of Phnom Roung in Buri Ram could also be proposed.
This is the result of the Quebec meeting being of benefit to Thailand.
Another benefit of the Quebec meeting, said Pisanu, was the right to join the International Coordinating Committee (ICC) which is a policymaking body for the safeguarding and development of Preah Vihear.
The World Heritage Committee asked Cambodia to invite Thailand to be a member of ICC together with not more than seven other internaฌtional partners.
There was wide misunderstandฌing among academics that the ICC would become a body to run the overlapping area.
In fact, the overlapping area had already been excluded and the World Heritage Committee’s decision made clear in its 14th paragraph that the ICC would cover only the listed “property”, according to the Foreign Ministry’s deputy spokesman Thani Thongphakdi, who attended the Quebec meeting.
Joining the ICC would be a gain, rather than loss, since Thai repreฌsentatives would have the right to run Preah Vihear and the chance to voice Thai concerns, if any, to protect the country’s national interest.
“It’s good to have our ears, eyes and mouths there,” ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat said.