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Thai govt ordered to stop supporting Cambodia’s bid


June 29, 2008

Preah Vihear: Thai govt ordered to stop supporting Cambodia’s bid
Thailand’s Administrative Court has temporarily blocked the government from supporting Cambodia’s bid to have an 11th century temple near the Thai border declared a world landmark, AFP reported.

Meanwhile, the Thai News Agency reported senior officials of Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Saturday said the ministry may appeal the Administrative Court-issued injunction Saturday morning suspending the Thai cabinet's earlier endorsement of Cambodia's map of Preah Vihear temple as well as the Thai signing of the related communique.

Foreign Ministry Treaties and Legal Affairs Department director-general Krit Kraichitti said the ministry was studying a plan to appeal the decision according to required procedures and that it would be made according to the government's policy.

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Krit denied telling the court that Thailand would lose its territorial rights in the contested 4.6 square kilometre area around the ancient Hindu temple.

The court issued an injunction early Saturday at the request of the People's Alliance for Democracy, a Thai group opposed to the government of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej.

The judges voted 9 to 3 to order the government to temporarily suspend "until the court rules otherwise" a Cabinet resolution backing Cambodia's application to Unesco for the Preah Vihear temple to be designated a World Heritage Site, a statement from the court said.

A small amount of territory adjacent to the temple remains in dispute, and critics claim cooperation with Cambodia over the heritage site application would jeopardise Thai claims to it.

The court's action is a political embarrassment for the government, which is fighting accusations by opponents that it ceded Thai territory to Cambodia.

The ruling applies to a Cabinet resolution which endorsed a Cambodian map of Preah Vihear temple, as well as a joint communique signed June 18 in which Thailand said it supported Cambodia's bid. The communique specifically said the application had no bearing on territorial claims by the countries.

But in its ruling, the Administrative Court said the communique "might undermine Thailand's future standing on the territorial dispute."

Cambodia has an internationally recognised claim over Preah Vihear temple and does not need Thai support for its application.

In 1962, the International Court of Justice awarded the temple and the land it occupies to Cambodia, a decision that still rankles Thais even though the temple is culturally Cambodian, sharing the Hindu-influenced aspects of the more famous Angkor Wat in northwestern Cambodia.

On Friday, Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong accused Thai opposition politicians of exploiting the cross-border dispute to advance their own domestic political agenda and warned they might endanger bilateral relations.

"I very much regret that some politicians in Thailand are using Preah Vihear as an issue for their own domestic battle," Hor Namhong told reporters. "(It) could affect the very good friendship and cooperation our two countries have had so far."

The Cambodian government plans to propose Preah Vihear as a World Heritage Site during a meeting of the Unesco World Heritage Committee on July 2-10 in Quebec, Canada.

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