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Thais Maintain Stance Over ‘Heritage’ Temple

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva reiterated his opposition to the listing of Preah Vihear temple as a Unesco World Heritage site Tuesday, despite a rejection of the UN agency that the temple be jointly managed.

Abhisit rankled Phnom Penh last month when he suggested that Thailand and Cambodian both maintain the 11th-Century temple, which has become the center of a longstanding military face-off along contested border areas nearby.

Abhisit told Thai media on Tuesday he stood by his position and would not remove the heavily armed troops that have been entrenched along the northern border since July 2008.

Thailand “needs to reserve the right to maintain its opposition to the temple listing,” Abhisit was quoted as saying. He also said the Preah Vihear issue would not affect relations between the two nations in other areas of cooperation.

Abhisit’s remarks follow the rejection of his proposal to Unesco last week and talks between the two governments to diffuse increased tensions and even more military build-ups along the border.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Tuesday Abhisit’s remarks were a pretext meant to appease the Thai populace.

Thailand has undergone serious political shake-ups in the past year, with protesters forcing the ouster of one administration and replacing it with Abhisit’s.

“His statement is only to deceive the citizens of Thailand, and legally it has no meaning,” Khieu Kanharith said.