Sunday, 17 May 2009

Cambodia steps up conservation measures near Preah Vihear temple

PHNOM PENH, May 5 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia recently stepped up its culture and nature conservation efforts near the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple, while its dispute with Thailand over border issues still remain unsolved.

Construction of the Samdech Techo Preah Vihear Museum will begin in one week in Chom Ksan district of Preah Vihear province, which is expected to bring more tourists to the disputed area bordering Thailand, said Chinese-language daily newspaper the Commercial News on Tuesday.

"The museum is for national and foreign researchers to study and learn about the history of the Preah Vihear temple and the Cambodian history," said Suos Yara, undersecretary of state at the Cambodian Council of Ministers.

The museum will house artifacts from the temple complex, as well as from other nearby temples, he added.

Japanese and Cambodian donors have provided some 145,000 U.S. dollars to build the museum, but more cash will be needed to finish the project, he said.

"The money is not enough, but we will do it step by step. When we get more money, we will keep on working on it," he added.

Meanwhile, the Cambodian government is preparing to relocate the Kor Muy village near the temple for the sake of conservation, village chief Bun Leng told Xinhua by phone on Monday.

"Up to now, we have not seen the formal notification of the government yet, but the whole village will be moved 20 kilometers away from the temple, because this area is under conservation control of the Preah Vihear Temple Authority," he said.

The land circling the temple will become a belt of development, management and conservation, as it is a World Heritage Site recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), he said.

"There are about 600 families in my village. Some of them are unhappy when they heard the news because their usual business will be affected," he said.

On Sunday, Phay Siphan, secretary of state and spokesman of the Cambodian Council of Ministers, confirmed to local media that Kor Muy village will be moved in order to make way for the government's conservation work.

The Preah Vihear temple became a World Heritage Site of UNESCO in July 2008, which immediately drew criticism and protest from Thai nationalists who claimed the ownership of the temple by their own motherland.

Although the International Court in The Hague decided in 1962 that the temple and its surrounding area should belong to Cambodia, Thailand has never stopped coveting its archeological and sovereignty value.

To make things worse, temple obsession is ever increasingly combined into the bilateral border dispute.

Cambodia and Thailand have never fully demarcated their 800-km-strong land border. Demarcating work cannot be carried out, as both sides have different interpretations of historical maps and worry about the landmines left there from years of civil war in Cambodia.

Both troops have been built up within the border area since July 2008, and brief military encounters in October 2008 and April 2009 have sparked concerns of possible war between these two countries.

Gunfire exchange during the armed clashes led to bullet pits and other slight wound of the temple, which has prompted UNESCO to study the loss and non-governmental organizations (NGO) to ask for payment.

In the meantime, some 147 Cambodian families living near the temple also urged Thailand to pay for the damages of their houses as a result of the April armed clashes.

Rocket bombs hit their houses and then led to total damage, said the Khmer Civilization Fund, a NGO representing the compensation seekers.

The fund had submitted the request letter to the Cambodian government, who later presented it to the Thai Embassy.

So far, the Thai side has not responded to the demand yet.
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