Flaring nationalist sentiment in Thailand over a contested Hindu temple on the Cambodian border threatens to harm ties between the neighbours, Cambodian Foreign minister Hor Namhong said on Friday.
The two countries have reached a deal setting out the border around the Preah Vihear temple, which Cambodia wants to have recognised by the UN’s cultural body UNESCO as a World Heritage site, in hopes of drawing tourists.
But Thai Foreign minister Noppadan Pattama has come under fire for agreeing to the deal, which became a key issue in a no-confidence debate against the Thai government this week.
The Thai government easily survived the vote of no confidence on Friday, but the debate has moved the temple to the forefront of domestic politics.
‘Political parties in Thailand should not exploit the Preah Vihear temple issue in their domestic struggles. That could cause harm to the good cooperation and friendship between the two countries,’ Hor Namhong told reporters.
Cambodia this week closed the temple after more than 100 Thais marched to the compound to protest the deal, which they say resulted in Thailand losing territory at the border point.
Hor Namhong insisted that Thailand will not lose any territory.
‘The drawing of the Preah Vihear map to be listed as a World Heritage site does not affect the border at all,’ Hor Namhong told reporters. ‘Thailand will not lose even one centimetre of land.’ Cambodia last year attempted to have the ancient Hindu temple, perched on a mountaintop on the Thai-Cambodia border, listed by UNESCO. But that effort failed, amid rumours Thailand had blocked the deal.
Cambodia began seeking World Heritage status for the temple, which has long plagued relations between the two countries, nearly six-years ago.
Both countries have historically laid claim to the site, which sits on Cambodian soil but can only be easily accessed from Thailand.
Former Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk took Thailand to the World Court in 1962 over the two countries’ claim to Preah Vihear. The court ruled the temple belonged to Cambodia.