Venerable Samdech the Supreme Patriarchs and Monks,
On July 7, 2008, in its 32nd session in the city of Quebec, Canada, the World Heritage Committee (WHC) of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) decided naming the Khmer Preah Vihear temple in the List of World Heritage at the request of the Royal Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia.
It is a new pride for the people and the Kingdom of Cambodia as well as for the people in the region and the world that the temple of Preah Vihear is being recognized by the International Councils on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) as the masterpiece of the Khmer architecture with outstanding universal value, and included in the List of the World Heritages.
The listing would require the whole international community to be bound with the obligation to provide cooperation in defense of the heritage while safeguarding the cultural heritage for the coming generations. It is the third Khmer heritage that has been bestowed upon with magnificent and dignified status after the inclusion of Angkor Wat temple in the similar list in 1992 and the Khmer Classical Dance (or Robam Preah Reachea Trop) was added into the UNESCO’s List ofMasterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2003.
The inclusion of the temple of Preah Vihear is the result of a long and complicated process and renegotiation that HE Sok An, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister in Charge of the Council of Ministers and in his capacity as the Chairman of the Cambodian National Committee for UNESCO and his delegation have achieved after I, in my capacity as the Prime Minister, made the proposal to the Director of UNESCO on October 10, 2001.
I would like to recall that on June 15, 1962, the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled that Preah Vihear was located under the Cambodian sovereignty. Based on the ruling and the actual state of the temple, and in the capacity as the owner country of the temple, the Kingdom of Cambodia proposed to list the temple as one of the world’s the world heritage sites, aimed at defending such cultural heritage for the coming generations.
The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, with technical consultancy and active assistance from UNESCO then filed relevant papers in accordance with implementation guidance of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, in which Cambodia is one of its member states, and submitted these documents to the World Heritage Center in Paris on January 30, 2006.
Following the technical mission to Preah Vihear site by the representatives of ICOMOS from October 23 through to 29, 2006, and after obtaining more information that Cambodia sent on January 03, 2007, ICOMOS recognized the outstanding universal value of the site, while proposing the temple to be included in the List of World Heritages.
In its 31rst regular session in the city of Christchurch in New Zealand, from June 23 through to July 02, 2007, the WHC examined all documents relating to the proposal, while recognizing that the temple of Preah Vihear site has great international significance and the outstanding universal value, and expressing its “approval in principle for the fact that the site must be registered in the List of World Heritages.”
I would add that HE the President of WHC, on that occasion, stated “the decision means that the Committee has agreed: the sacred site deserves to be included in the List of the World Heritages, and its official inclusion would be conducted in its next session in 2008.”
In all stages of the listing process, WHC always refers to the position of the Kingdom of Thailand which as a neighboring country has had dispute with Cambodia on the temple. Fortunately, though there has been strong opposition from some circles in the country, after the explanations made by the Cambodian side, the Royal Government of Thailand always agreed and approved that the temple of Preah Vihear has the outstanding universal value while offering support to the inclusion of the temple into the World Heritage List.
The position has clearly been respectively showing in the session in Christchurch in 2007, in the course of the visit by HE Samak Sundaravej, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand to the Kingdom of Cambodia on May 3 and 4, 2008 in the official negotiation with me at the Council of Ministers, in the joint communiqué dated May 6, 2008 after the working session on the temple of Preah Vihear between the Cambodian delegation led by HE Sok An, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister in Charge of the Council of Ministers and the Thai delegation led by HE Virasadi Futrakul, the Secretary General of the Thai Foreign Ministry, and especially the joint declaration signed on June 18, 2008 by HE Sok An and HE Noppadon Pattama, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Thailand, after the two dignitaries met, discussed and agreed on May 22, 2008 at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, in the presence of many UNESCO officials.
On that occasion, in a goodwill and reconciliatory spirit, Cambodia agreed on this stage the inclusion process of the temple of Preah Vihear into the List of the World Heritages, without the buffer zones on the north and on the west parts of the temple, leaving the two areas to the Joint Land Border Committee of the two countries to continue to examine. I would like to reaffirm that the inclusion of the temple of Preah Vihear does not affect in any way the negotiation process on border demarcation between the two countries.
Taking this opportune moment, on behalf of every members of the Royal Government, officials of all levels, the armed forces and the Cambodian people as a whole, I would like to express my deep and sincere thanks to Samdech Preah Moha Virak Khsatr Preah Baat Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk for the supreme leadership in the spirit of patriotism in demanding and defending the legitimate sovereignty, territorial integrity of the Kingdom of Cambodia on the temple of Preah Vihear – the magnificent Khmer architecture.
It is true that 46 years ago, responding to the October-6-1959 proposal by the Royal Government of Cambodia, the International Court of Justice in the Hague recognizes in its ruling on June 15, 1962 that: “… the Temple of Preah Vihear was situated in territory under the sovereignty of Cambodia and, in consequence, Thailand was under an obligation to withdraw any military or police forces, or other guards, stationed by her at the Temple, or in its vicinity on Cambodian territory.”
I would beg your permission to express my deep and sincere thanks to HM the King Preah Baat Samdech Preah Boromneat Norodom Sihamoni who always provides full and constant support to the efforts of the Royal Government of Cambodia since HM was the country’s Ambassador to UNESCO in Paris, for the sake of the correct and just cause of the Royal Government and people of Cambodia.
My thanks also go to HE Sok An, and the accompanying delegation for their arduous defense of the just position of the Royal Government of Cambodia in a flexible, skillful, professional, diplomatic and patriotic manner, while defending the sovereignty, territorial integrity, honor and national heritage, while maintaining friendly, cooperative and good neighborly relations with the Royal Government and people of Thailand.
I would like to specially thank foreign countries involved, UNESCO and dignitaries that are giving support to the just proposal of the Royal Government of Cambodia bringing to success the effort for the inclusion of the temple of Preah Vihear into the world heritages list for the sake of the supreme interests of the whole humanity.
Finally I would like to express my deepest and sincerest gratitude to the people of Cambodia of all strata for providing faithfully patriotic supports through the expression of understanding, patience, calmness, aimed at defending national interest, and peaceful, friendly and good-neighborly relations with the people of Thailand.
I wish all Buddhist monks and the Cambodian compatriots the four Buddhist blessings of longevity, beauty, safety and healthiness./.