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Thai Yellow Shirts Protest Against Leaders, UNESCO Temple Listing

Cambodia's famed Preah Vihear temple, which is enlisted as UNESCO's World Heritage site, in Preah Vihear province (file photo).
Cambodia's famed Preah Vihear temple, which is enlisted as UNESCO's World Heritage site, in Preah Vihear province (file photo).

Thailand's royalist Yellow Shirts have protested outside the United Nations Cultural agency in Bangkok, urging it to withdraw world heritage status for a Cambodian temple near disputed territory. They also paraded through the Thai capital encouraging people not to vote in July 3 elections. The nationalist movement has stopped supporting the current government, saying it is too weak on the border dispute.

At least 2,000 yellow-dressed protesters demonstrated Friday outside of the Bangkok office of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

They nationalists want UNESCO's World Heritage Committee, which meets Sunday in Paris, to de-list a temple in Cambodia near disputed territory.

The 900-year-old Khmer Hindu temple called Preah Vihear in Cambodia and Phra Viharn in Thailand was declared a world heritage site in 2008.

The listing sparked nationalist fervor on both sides and sporadic and deadly clashes between Thai and Cambodian soldiers.

Protester Vipida Thaisawat says Cambodia is using the world heritage status to encroach on Thai land. Like some other nationalists, she claims the temple is in Thai territory.

"Actually, [getting the] temple back [to Thailand] or not is not the point," Vipida noted. "But, the point right now is they [Cambodia] want the land around Phra Viharn to register as a world heritage [under Cambodia]. And, we can't let that happen."

Cambodia has proposed a joint management plan for the temple complex, which the World Heritage Committee is reviewing and may decide on next week.

Thailand has urged the plan be delayed until a decision is reached on the land surrounding the temple, which both sides claim.

Cambodia last month asked the International Court of Justice in The Hague to rule on the disputed 4.6-square-kilometer area around the temple.

The ICJ ruled in 1962 that the temple itself is in Cambodia, but made no decision on the surrounding land. The court's ruling is expected sometime early next year.

The Yellow Shirts paraded Friday from the UNESCO office through Bangkok, directing most of their anger at Thai politicians.

They urged Thai people not to vote in a July 3 election, saying none of the parties have Thailand's true interests at heart, including the ruling Democrats they once supported.

The Yellow Shirts say the government has been weak in the border dispute with Cambodia and are demanding it stop cooperating with UNESCO and Phnom Penh.

The Thai government has waffled on whether it wants the withdrawal of the temple's World Heritage status, but has also dismissed the Yellow Shirt demands.

Meanwhile, the border remains tense with both militaries on alert. Clashes between the two sides killed at least 10 people in February. Another 18 died in fighting in April near another ancient temple complex about 150 kilometers farther west.

Each side blamed the other for starting the fight.