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Historian advocates joint control of border heritage sites

Countries in the Mekong River basin
and the Dangrek Mountain range should consider creating a
trans-boundary world heritage site of cultural and natural resources to
end their border conflicts, prominent historian Charnvit Kasetsiri
proposed over the weekend.
Speaking at a seminar “Our
Boundaries, Our Asean Neighbours” on Friday, Charnvit said countries in
the region had a lot of cultural and natural heritage left by ancestors
centuries ago, some of which were sources of conflict.
Thailand and Cambodia have been at loggerheads over the Hindu
Khmer temple of Preah Vihear for half a century. The proposal by
Cambodia to list the ruined temple as a World Heritage site in 2008
fuelled conflict between the neighbouring countries.

A group of Thai nationalists
want the government to block Cambodia’s attempt to run Preah Vihear and
kick a Khmer community out of the area adjacent to the temple.
A ruling by the International
Court of Justice in 1962 found that Preah Vihear was situated in
territory under the sovereignty of Cambodia. Bangkok said it respected
the court’s ruling but argued that the temple’s vicinity and even the
land where the temple sits belongs to Thailand.
Preah Vihear temple was listed
as a World Heritage site in 2008 but the Thai government, with strong
support from nationalist groups, opposed its management plan. The two
countries remain in conflict and seem to have no way to settle their
Charnvit proposed what he is
calling a “Mixed Cultural and Natural Mekong-Dangrek World Heritage” as
a model to end the conflict.
There were some examples in the
world, he said, where trans-border World Heritage sites had been
possible, citing the Iguazu waterfalls – the world’s largest – which
are situated on the border of Argentina and Brazil.
The World Heritage Committee
listed the Iguazu National Park for Argentina as a World Heritage site
in 1984 and listed Brazil’s part in 1986.
Countries in the Mekong basin
should consider the same idea, as they had a lot of sandstone Khmer
temples sitting across the boundary in the region, Charnvit said.
Preah Vihear could be jointly listed as a World Heritage site, as its main building is in Cambodia but the area around it is in Thailand.
Preah Vihear was in the same
family with Wat Phou in Laos and Phanom Rung in Thailand’s Buri Ram
province, he said, and noted that two of them – the exception is Phanom
Rung – were already listed as World Heritage sites.
“People in this region should think beyond the border and jointly list these temples as World Heritage sites,” he said.
Charnvit conducted a set of
studies on boundaries to help Thais get a better grasp about such
matters. Misunderstanding about the boundary sometimes created trouble
for people and conflict with neighbours, he said.
The research indicated that
people in many parts of the world, such as in Europe, could move across
boundaries easily, as if they don’t exist. People in this region should
also be able to overcome conflicts over boundaries some day, he said.
The Nation
Categories: Local News
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