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Thailand Leaves World Heritage Convention Over Temple

The stone remains of Preah Vihear, built nearly 1,000 years ago, are supposed to be a protected U.N. World Heritage site. Instead they are at the heart of a dangerous tug-of-war between Cambodia and Thailand.

Prime Minister Hun Sen welcomed a Unesco plan to consider Cambodian management of Preah Vihear temple on Monday, despite Thailand’s withdrawal from the World Heritage Convention and the World Heritage Committee over the weekend.

The Thai withdrawal came during a World Heritage gathering in Paris after an agreement was reached to place a proposed management plan for the temple on its agenda.

“Now, we only ask for justice,” Hun Sen said at a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh. “Justice in 1962 forced Thailand to withdraw from the International Court of Justice. Now, once again, Thailand has withdrawn its membership from Unesco’s World Heritage Committee. I would like to send a message to His Excellency, Abhisit Vejjajiva, is you want to have the heart of a son, Your Excellency will write an official letter tomorrow, because it will be a weekly cabinet meeting.”

Thailand has already informed the World Heritage Committee it intends to leave as a member of the convention, which seeks to protect historical sites around the world. The Thai daily newspaper the Nation reported that Thai delegates had withdrawn because the committee was considering a management plan by Cambodia in an area where both sides are embroiled in a military standoff.

Hun Sen said in his speech Cambodia would not withdraw from Unesco, as it has “many heritage properties,” including Preah Vihear temple and Angkor Wat. “So we need Unesco.”