Phnom Penh – The Cambodian government has renewed efforts to have UNESCO classify the ancient Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site, government spokesman Khieu Kanharith confirmed Monday. Kanharith confirmed reports in the Khmer-language Rasmei Kampuchea newspaper that the important 11th to 12th century temple, which lies in the far north of the country perched on the Thai border, should be recognised as a World Heritage monument to help assure its continued preservation.
“This is not the first time the government has attempted to have Preah Vihear listed as a World Heritage site, but now several people in the government understand the procedures necessary to put this case much better,” Kanharith said by telephone.
He said Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and Deputy Prime Minister Sok An were leading the new push for World Heritage classification. The government last attempted to have the key religious and architectural site classified in 2001.
Preah Vihear was formally recognised as under Cambodian sovereignty in 1961 by the International Court of Justice after both Thailand and Cambodia had claimed jurisdiction.
Royal decrees passed by Cambodia with guidance from UNESCO since 2002 have helped the Cambodidan government model ways to better manage and preserve the remote and partially ruined temple, assisting its current chances of finally being granted World Heritage listing.
However the site remains only easily accessible from the Thai side of the border despite its huge significance to Cambodians.
The Angkor Wat temple complex, 200 kilometers south of Preah Vihear near the northern city of Siem Reap, was granted World Heritage status by UNESCO in 1992. Angkor Wat is the not only the country’s largest tourist draw but its most important religious and cultural symbol.
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