A high-level Unesco delegation traveled to the temple of Preah Vihear Friday morning, in what Cambodian officials called an effort to protect the structure, which has been at the center of a military standoff since July 2008.
The delegation, led by Olabiyi Babalola Joseph Yai, executive counselor for Unesco, was the first visit of its kind since the temple was recognized as a World Heritage site by the UN cultural organization, sparking protests in Bangkok and at the temple that led to the massing of troops from Thailand and Cambodia on the border.
Yai “inspected the real situation at Preah Vihear temple, over the Heritage site, and the flag of World Heritage,” said Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan, who accompanied the delegation.
Yai also examined a damaged statue “affected by the attack of the Thai military” and visited the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara pagoda near the temple, Phay Siphan said
Yai did not comment on the military situation nor visit any military bases, he added, but a group of experts would come later in March to evaluate the development plans for the temple.
Thousands of soldiers remain at the border, despite several rounds of talks between the two countries and skirmishes that have left at least four soldiers dead.
Yai returned to Siem Reap Friday afternoon and is scheduled to remain in Cambodia through March 18. On the remainder of his visit, he will tour the temples of Angkor Wat and Koh Ke temple in Preah Vihear province.