Editorial by Ek Madra
Now, more than ever, the international community must stand up, take heed of the perils facing Cambodia’s Preah Vihear temple at the hands of the Thai army. The international committee has a moral and legal obligation to undertake this intervention as it had jointly decided to inscribe the 900-year old monument as a World Heritage site. The Cambodia’s Temple was listed as World Heritage Site in July 07th 2008 during the World Heritage Council meeting at Quebec, Canada.
Thai forces had staged repeated attacks in and around the vicinity of the world heritage, inflicting irreparable damage to the temple and its surroundings aimed at justifying Bangkok’s invasion lies in the secret and unilateral map drawn up by Thailand, which is unrecognized by the international community.
Despite numerous ceasefire agreements and dialogue, Cambodia’s Preah Vihear temple continues to be the focal target for Thai forces and recalcitrant politicians to divert attention of their people away from their domestic political issues.
Thai armed forces attempts to invade Cambodia and forcibly evict her citizens from its own territory. This is tantamount to a scorched earth policy as Thai army firing has been indiscriminate and deliberate, probably aimed at discouraging the committee from discussing further the development of the Preah Vihear temple and its vicinity in line with the inscription of the said temple to the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Evidently, Thai soldiers had again, on Friday and Saturday last week, launched artillery bombardment deep into Cambodia’s territory at three locations, all of which are within the vicinity of the Temple. Stern preventive measures must be taken now without delay to ensure that Thai troops respect the international cultural heritage status bestowed on the Preah Vihear temple.
The protection and safe guarding of the temple benefits not only Cambodia but also its feuding neighbor Thailand. That is to say Thailand also stands to benefit from a peaceful and safe Preah Vihear temple in all aspects – development of tourism and economic activities as well as people to people exchange. Thus, it is very important that the international community moves immediately to assist Cambodia to ensure the full and complete preservation of the temple, one which is free from damages caused by armed conflict.
I am deeply shocked again after hearing that the latest Thai attacks had caused many serious damages to the Temple of Preah Vihear as stated by Cambodia’s ministry of foreign affairs.
Based on the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, done at the Hague, 14 May 1954, stated that
Article 4. Respect for cultural property
1. The High Contracting Parties undertake to respect cultural property situated within their own territory as well as within the territory of other High Contracting Parties by refraining from any use of the property and its immediate surroundings or of the appliances in use for its protection for purposes which are likely to expose it to destruction or damage in the event of armed convict; and by refraining from any act of hostility directed against such property.
Article 22. Conciliation procedure
1. The Protecting Powers shall lend their good offices in all cases where they may deem it useful in the interests of cultural property, particularly if there is disagreement between the Parties to the conflict as to the application or interpretation of the provisions of the present Convention or the Regulations for its execution.
2. For this purpose, each of the Protecting Powers may, either at the invitation of one Party, of the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or on its own initiative, propose to the Parties to the conflict a meeting of their representatives, and in particular of the authorities responsible for the protection of cultural property, if considered appropriate on suitably chosen neutral territory. The Parties to the conflict shall be bound to give effect to the proposals for meeting made to them. The Protecting Powers shall propose for approval by the Parties to the conflict a person belonging to a neutral Power or a person presented by the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which person shall be invited to take part in such a meeting in the capacity of Chairman.
Article 23. Assistance of Unesco
1. The High Contracting Parties may call upon the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization for technical assistance in organizing the protection of their cultural property, or in connexion with any other problem arising out of the application of the present Convention or the Regulations for its execution. The Organization shall accord such assistance within the limits fixed by its programme and by its resources.
2. The Organization is authorized to make, on its own initiative, proposals on this matter to the High Contracting Parties.
I, therefore, called on the international community to pay close attention to the current armed clashes provoked by Thais to ensure that the Temple will never ever be damaged again by Thai gunfire. Thus the UNESCO and World Heritage Committee should call on all concerned parties to set up an ADHOC committee to work with Cambodia and Thailand to make sure that the Temple will no longer be part of the battle ground between the two Asian nations.