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Cambodian temple enters World Heritage list


July 8, 2008

Cambodian temple enters World Heritage list
After seven years of efforts by the Cambodian government, the cliff-top temple of Preah Vihear on the border with Thailand was inscribed as a World Heritage site on Tuesday over Thailand’s objections, reported Japanese news agency Kyodo.

The application received the unanimous approval of the 21 members of the World Heritage Committee, meeting in Quebec City, Canada, the government said in a statement.

"The inscription of the Sacred Temple of Preah Vihear on the World Heritage List is a matter very dear to the hearts of all Cambodians as it represents one of the great triumphs of Khmer civilisation," said Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, who headed a Cambodian delegation to the meeting.

The committee's approval followed two weeks of controversy surrounding the position of the Thai government concerning the proposed listing.

The Khmer temple, built between the mid-10th century and early 12th century, sits atop a 600-meter cliff in the Dangrek Mountains on the Thai-Cambodian border.

Cambodia won possession of it through the International Court of Justice in The Hague and regained it in 1962 from Thailand, which had occupied it from 1949 when Cambodia was a French protectorate.

Thailand had been hesitant to see the temple become a World Heritage site since the two countries have not yet arrived at a demarcation agreement on land around the ruins.

Last month, Thailand and Cambodia signed a joint communique in which Thailand agreed to actively support World Heritage listing for the temple, after receiving assurances the move would not affect Thailand's claims to territory around the temple.

In a sudden turnabout, however, the Thai government later the same month withdrew its support for the move following antigovernment protests demanding annulment of the endorsement.

Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama subsequently traveled to Canada in a failed attempt to persuade the committee to postpone its vote.

Welcoming the committee's decision Tuesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen released a statement calling it another source of pride for Cambodia.

It marks the second Cambodian site to be inscribed on the World Heritage List, following the famed temples of Angkor, inscribed as a World Heritage site in 1992. In addition, Cambodia's classical dance was listed as a World Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2003.

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