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In Brazil, Thailand Objects Again to Preah Vihear Plans

Thailand has re-raised objections to the World Heritage status of Preah Vihear temple on the northern border.

At a meeting of Unesco in Brazil, Thai officials said they do not agree with a Cambodian management plan for the 11th-Century temple, which is now at the heart of an ongoing military standoff on the border.

Both Thailand and Cambodia have had troops amassed along the border since the July 2008 inception of the temple as a Heritage site under Cambodian control.

Unesco spokeswoman Sue Williams told VOA Khmer from Brazil that Cambodia had presented a plan for consideration. However, she said the border dispute between the two countries was “strictly bilateral” and declined to comment further on the Thai objections.

Cambodia's management plan, submitted by a delegation led by Cabinet Minister Sok An, has provoked strong disapproval from Thailand, which claims a 4-kilometer strip of land near Preah Vihear temple.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was quoted in the Bangkok Post saying Thailand would reconsider its ties with Unesco if the body approves the plan.

Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan said Thailand’s argument was to ultimately co-manage the temple, which sits on a high precipice overlooking the plains of Preah Vihear province.

Unesco Director General Irina Bokova said in a statement that the Brazil meeting, which ends Aug. 3, will examine the state of conservation of the temple.

“Protecting and enhancing our natural and cultural heritage means building the peace, respect and solidarity which lies at the heart of Unesco's mission,” she said. “It is our common responsibility to makes these sites emblems of peace, dialogue and reconciliation.”

At least eight soldiers have died in ensuing skirmishes since the military standoff began, along a border that has yet to be fully demarcated by either side.