MPs revive Preah Vihear access bid

MPs revive Preah Vihear access bid

Si Sa Ket MPs want PM Srettha to raise temple issue during talks with Cambodian counterpart

The Preah Vihear temple complex on the Cambodian-Thai border dates back to the 11th century AD. A military conflict over the site in 2011 resulted in a reported 34 deaths on both sides. (Bangkok Post File Photo)
The Preah Vihear temple complex on the Cambodian-Thai border dates back to the 11th century AD. A military conflict over the site in 2011 resulted in a reported 34 deaths on both sides. (Bangkok Post File Photo)

Pheu Thai MPs in Si Sa Ket want Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin to discuss access to the Preah Vihear temple ruins during his upcoming meeting with his Cambodian counterpart Hun Manet.

Access to the Unesco World Heritage Site from Kantharalak district of Si Sa Ket has been blocked since 2008, when military activity was stepped up on both sides of the border.

Military clashes with a reported 34 fatalities followed in 2011. Two years later, the International Court of Justice ruled that the land adjacent to the temple on the east and west belongs to Cambodia. A 1962 ruling that ended a decades-long dispute said the south side of the temple was Cambodian territory and the north side was Thai.

Provincial MPs plan to brief Mr Srettha on Wednesday on Thai-Cambodian issues, said Dr Phumin Leethiraprasert, a Pheu Thai MP for Constituency 4 in Si Sa Ket.

He said the MPs were hoping the two leaders could agree on reopening tourism around the Preah Vihear temple complex.

“The much-awaited reopening depends on the talks between the two prime ministers,” said Dr Phumin said.

“I believe that reopening tourism around the temple complex reflects friendly ties between the two nations, so the reopening is really possible.”

There have been attempts to restore access to the culturally and historically significant site in recent months, and the issue has also drawn interest from the House committee on foreign affairs chaired by Pheu Thai MP Noppadon Patama.

Earlier this month, the panel summoned Anupong Suksomnit, the governor of Si Sa Ket, and representatives from the military to provide information about border tensions.

Mr Anupong told the meeting that provincial authorities agreed at their meeting in November last year to ask the Thai and Cambodian governments to work together to foster tourism around the temple complex.

According to the governor, the private sector also supported the move — with a plan to lobby trade and commerce bodies to join the campaign for renewed tourism.

Mr Noppadon, a former foreign minister, also expressed support for the reopening which would bolster border trade, investment and strengthen ties between local people.

According to government spokesman Chai Wacharonke, the Cambodian prime minister will make an official visit on Feb 7. The joint development of offshore energy resources in the overlapping claim area (OCA) is said to be the main item on the two leaders’ agenda.

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