NEW YORK CITY (February 8, 2011) – The United Nations cultural agency said Tuesday it plans to send a mission to assess the damage caused to the Preah Vihear Temple, a World Heritage site, by the recent armed clashes between Thailand and Cambodia. Tensions first escalated between the South-East Asian neighbours in July 2008 following the build-up of military forces near the temple, which dates back to the 11th century and is located on the Cambodian side of the border.
The temple was inscribed on the World Heritage List of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) earlier that month.
There have been renewed armed clashes between the two countries in recent days, prompting calls for restraint by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Speaking to reporters in New York, Mr. Ban said he spoke to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva by telephone today, urging both leaders “to end violence, to exercise restraint, and find a lasting solution to the dispute.”
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova today reiterated her call for calm and restraint around the temple.
“World Heritage sites are the heritage of all humanity and the international community has a special responsibility to safeguard them. This requires a collective effort that must be undertaken in a spirit of consultation and dialogue,” she stated in a news release.
“Heritage should unite people and serve as an instrument of dialogue and mutual understanding and not of conflict.”
The temple, dedicated to the Hindu deity Shiva, is composed of a series of sanctuaries linked by a system of pavements and staircases over an 800-metre-long axis. The site is exceptional for the quality of its carved stone ornamentation and its architecture, adapted to the natural environment and the religious function of the temple, according to UNESCO.
In a February 6 statement Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced concern about repeated armed clashes between Cambodia and Thailand around their common border, and called on both sides to exercise restraint and resolve their dispute through dialogue.
The clashes that occurred between 4 and 6 February has reportedly claimed a number of lives, and led to the displacement of civilians and destruction of property, according to a statement issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson.
“The Secretary-General appeals to both sides to put in place an effective arrangement for cessation of hostilities and to exercise maximum restraint,” it stated.
“He also calls on them to continue their efforts to finding a lasting solution to their dispute through established mechanisms and arrangements and a spirit of dialogue and good neighborly relations.”
Tensions escalated between the South-East Asian neighbors in July 2008 following the build-up of military forces near the Preah Vihear Temple in Cambodia.
The temple, which dates back to the 11th century, was inscribed on the World Heritage List of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) earlier that month.
The statement reiterated the UN’s readiness to assist in peaceful efforts to resolve the dispute.
Situated on the edge of a plateau that dominates the plain of Cambodia, the Temple of Preah Vihear is dedicated to Shiva. The Temple is composed of a series of sanctuaries linked by a system of pavements and staircases over an 800 metre long axis and dates back to the first half of the 11th century AD.
Nevertheless, its complex history can be traced to the 9th century, when the hermitage was founded. This site is particularly well preserved, mainly due to its remote location. The site is exceptional for the quality of its architecture, which is adapted to the natural environment and the religious function of the temple, as well as for the exceptional quality of its carved stone ornamentation.
The Temple of Preah Vihear, a unique architectural complex of a series of sanctuaries linked by a system of pavements and staircases on an 800 metre long axis, is an outstanding masterpiece of Khmer architecture, in terms of plan, decoration and relationship to the spectacular landscape environment.
Preah Vihear is an outstanding masterpiece of Khmer architecture. It is very ‘pure’ both in plan and in the detail of its decoration.
Authenticity, in terms of the way the buildings and their materials express well the values of the property, has been established. The attributes of the property comprise the temple complex; the integrity of the property has to a degree been compromised by the absence of part of the promontory from the perimeter of the property.
The protective measures for the Temple, in terms of legal protection are adequate; the progress made in defining the parameters of the Management Plan needs to be consolidated into an approved, full Management Plan.