Thailand Withdraws from World Heritage Convention in Temple Dispute with Cambodia

Posted June 26th, 2011 at 10:05 am (UTC-5)
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Thailand has withdrawn from UNESCO's World Heritage convention because of a simmering dispute with Cambodia over a 900-year-old temple in a remote border area between the two countries.

Thailand says its withdrawal stems from what it calls a disappointing decision by the World Heritage governing body to place Cambodia's management plan for the Preah Vihear temple on its agenda. Thailand has insisted the border dispute be settled in bilateral talks, and has balked at outside efforts to ease tensions by the United Nations and the regional grouping, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Several military clashes since early February have left more than 20 people dead and displaced thousands of others.

Cambodia, in May, launched a legal bid at the International Court of Justice — the highest U.N. tribunal — seeking to force Thailand to withdraw its troops from disputed land near the temple. No ruling has been issued.

The temple, called Preah Vihear in Cambodia and Phra Viharn in Thailand, was declared a World heritage site in 2008. Both sides agree the temple lies in Cambodian territory. The dispute centers on access to the temple, which can only be gained by crossing through Thai territory.