The head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today voiced deep regret after Thailand announced it would denounce the global convention aimed at preserving humankind's most outstanding shared cultural and natural heritage.
A Thai Government minister said yesterday in Paris, where the UNESCO World Heritage Committee is currently meeting, that his country did not support the convention, the latest step in a row involving the Preah Vihear Temple, a World Heritage List site that was damaged during border clashes earlier this year between Thailand and Cambodia.
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said in a press statement issued today that “the World Heritage Convention of 1972 is not only the foremost international instrument for the preservation and protection of the world's cultural and natural properties which have outstanding universal value, but also widely recognized as an important and indispensable tool to develop and encourage international cooperation and dialogue.”
Ms. Bokova said she hoped that Thailand would “carefully consider its future course of action” regarding the convention and “continue to be an active participant” in the discussion of world heritage issues.
In its press statement UNESCO noted that, contrary to some media reports, the World Heritage Committee did not discuss the management plan for the Preah Vihear Temple or request that reports be submitted on its state of conservation.
Instead the committee reaffirmed the need to ensure the protection and conservation of the temple site from any damage and further encouraged Thailand and Cambodia to use the convention as a tool to support conservation, sustainable development and dialogue.
UNESCO said the committee made the decision unanimously after Thailand staged a walkout, despite “intense negotiations” with both Thailand and Cambodia over the past five days on the sidelines of the committee meeting.
Earlier this year the former UNESCO director-general Koïchiro Matsuura was dispatched as a special envoy to try to resolve the dispute between the South-East Asian neighbours, and the agency also facilitated consultations between the two countries last month in Paris.
Meanwhile, the committee yesterday inscribed five new sites to the World Heritage List, taking the total of new additions during the current session – which ends on 29 June – to 13.
The committee added the Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia, the Archaeological Sites of the Island of Meroe in Sudan, Jordan's Wadi Rum Protected Area, the Longobards in Italy and the Fagus Factory in Alfeld, Germany.