On Monday, 7 July 2008, in Quebec, Canada, the World Heritage Committee (WHC) unanimously agreed to add Khmer Preah Vihear temple as new world heritage site. The adding launched a prompt positive reaction from Phnom Penh. Public officials joined residents in impromptu celebrations in Phnom Penh. Monks in pagodas rang bells, as people went into the streets, shouting, clapping, singing and dancing to drums, students assembling at school field, waving Cambodian flags throughout the country. Prime Minister Hun Sen issued an immediate statement congratulating Cambodia on the inscription, especially noting efforts of diplomats and the negotiating team.
Now the listing is considered as the clear and priceless victory of Hun Sen government by most of the Cambodians and they are overjoyed.
However, I personally see it as a loss and feel so much pain in my heart without proper words to express.
The effort of listing Cambodian temples or other natural and cultural properties as World Heritage Site is the duty of all Cambodian leaders in all generations and the listing of the Preah Vihear temple therefore is absolutely the duty of Hun Sen government to be fulfilled. Yet, this listing should have done better and considered as the true success only if the listing is done in accordance with the verdict of 1962 ruled by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in Hague. The rule used the 1904 and 1907 maps of Siamese-Franco treaty which included the 4.6km2 belonged to Cambodia.
In contrast, Hun Sen government excluded it in the new drawn map as proposed by Thailand and submitted to WHC as the official application which deputy Prime Minister Sok An and the Thai counterpart Foreign Minister Nappadon Pattama signed it as the Joint Communiqué in Paris on 22 May 2008.
This application means that Cambodia has recognized the unilateral map drawn by Thailand and make Cambodia to lose sovereignty over the 4.6km2 to Thailand.
After the listing, everybody knows that the stairs is in Thailand now which before the border was beyond the stair of the temple as long as 2.6km away according to the ICJ rule in 1962.
Actually, if we see the first map recognized by the ICJ rule, we Cambodia do not need to ask for support from Thailand. We can go alone because the temple was and is legally always ours and the boundary need not to redraw. So, is this a victory as claimed by Hun Sen government? Is it acceptable as a Cambodian and as nation? Please everyone tells me!
After our sacred temple is listed as the third World Heritage Site after Angkor Wat in 1993 and Apsara Dance in 2002, the issue will not be ended. This will make the Thai people create more hatred towards Cambodians because they still think that Cambodia was able to win the listing by means of its dirty deal for personal interests involving with former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Sinawatra and the incumbent Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. As we know, the process of the endorsement of the Joint Communiqué was done in an immediate manner which put deep suspicion by the Thai people leading to mass demonstration against the endorsement from ordinary people to higher political institutes, People Alliance for Democracy, Senate Committee, and the Thai Administrative Court.
Furthermore, it is not the end because the Cambodian government seems to have hidden agenda with Thailand towards its people as Ambassador Francesco Caruso, special adviser to the director general of Unesco, told AFP in Quebec that, “the listing was not meant to prejudice settlement of the border dispute. It could be amended in the future to a bi-national listing of the temple and its contested landscape. It could become a mixed natural and architectural site, the door is open. The Cambodians negotiated a listing that opens the door to such future harmony.” So what is the meaning of victory for the listing of Preah Vihear temple as the World Heritage Site comparing with those of the listings of Angkor Wat temple and Apsara Dance for all Cambodians? Is Angkor Wat shared shared? Why should Preah Vihear be open for the share with Thailand in the future? Isn’t Preah Vihear temple the exclusive property of Cambodia like Angkor Wat?
The listing is carried out, out of personal and political group interest i.e., the Hun Sen`s group or his CPP but not out of the national interest as a whole. The effort is committed in haste by accepting the Thai unilateral map so that the application will be supported by the Thai counterpart and the sacred temple will be listed by the WHC on time before the national election on 27 July 2008.
I really doubt that the Joint Communiqué is the international treaty. If so, it must be sent to the National Assembly for consent first according to our Constitution on article 90 point 4th which states that, “The assembly shall approve or annul treaties or international conventions”. It is logically proved because the Thai Constitutional Court also ruled on Tuesday 8 July 2008 that the Joint Communiqué is clearly the international treaty which also required the consent of Thai Parliament before it is being officially promulgated. So should Hun Sen government be impeached as in the case of Thailand now because Hun Sen himself and his government did completely commit the unforgivable crime?
We are not sure if Hun Sen government will commit to protect our territorial integrity of the 4.6km2 which claimed by Thailand. I personally never trust Hun Sen leadership because he is so weak, incompetent, instable, external influenced, self-centered, surrounded by sycophants and without due respect to national consiousness.
The last is my unpredictable worry about the future of Cambodian democracy, independence, and economy influenced by this treacherous victory of the listing of Preah Vihear temple because this victory has changed the bad image of Hun Sen government to be the good one among many Cambodians which can maximize the support for the CPP towards the majority victory in the upcoming election. Then our beloved country and people will be consecutively remained under suffering economically and democratically and invasion by neighboring countries for another fiver years.
Anyway, please stay united and keep our close observation on Hun Sen government if he would be elected again on the issue of the Preah Vihear temple negotiation with Thailand especially, regarding to the 4.6 km2 overlapping area. Yet, we will try him if he is voted out for this treason.
There is no pain as deep as the lost of our beloved national territorial integrity!
9 July 2008