Investigation of the United Nations (UNESCO) World Heritage Convention
Over the Temple of Preah Vihear
The research in this scholastic investigation intended verifying if the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Convention practices indeed contributed to the conflict already occurring between Thailand and Cambodia over contested border and who has sovereignty over the ancient Temple of Preah Vihear and found the existing literature more than ample proving this. With public, legal, and academic reports, the actions of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee proves it irresponsibly and with direct circumvention of its own protocols inappropriately named Cambodia with inscription on its Heritage List when conflict over the temple site was already in contention between the two nations to the extent of engaging in armed combat. Use of a prominent international case study of similar circumstances where the contention of a historical site claimed by both the Korean and Chinese governments where the Committee again abetted the Chinese claim super ceding the historical rights to claim the Koguryo Kingdom site with the Committee granting China the inscription on the List proves particularly significant. With this action by the Committee the results again show the depth of the influence UNESCO’s program creates international turmoil prevails.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Convention effect on the century long border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia focusing on who has possession of the Temple of Preah Vihear warrants investigating to what extent UNESCO contributed to the ongoing discord. Decades prior to the creation of the UN or UNESCO the two Southeast Asian nations remained embedded in a dispute over the temple resulting in ongoing tensions as well as armed skirmishes (Yoosuk, 2013; Van der Auwera, 2000). The World Heritage program designated the temple in 2008 as belonging to Thailand however; the International Court of Justice giving Cambodia sovereignty over the World Heritage designated site (Wilkes, 1963-1964; Weisberg, 1963; Valencia-Ospina, 1999; Traviss, 2007; Johnson, 1962) later changed this.
Typical to such types of international border disputes centred on border territory show the root of the discord attach to the emotions of the people of both nations running deep. The discord continues despite international efforts through UNESCO and the UN International Court of Justice awarding Cambodia the temple. Consequently, the question of ownership of the area around the site spurs ongoing discord between specific factions on both the Cambodian and Thai sides of the border in dispute.
The UNESCO agenda continues focusing on the inherent value of such sites as the Preah Vihear Temple for sustainable cultural development. At the same time, the advent of armed conflict as continues between Cambodia and Thailand over the disputed area around the temple bordering both nations proves problematic since these developing nations seemingly have no access to the historical cultural site (Yoosuk, 2013, Van der Auwera, 2000).
UNESCO increasingly points to the value of culture and cultural sites as exemplified by the Preah Vihear Temple for sustainable development according to Van der Auwera (2000, p. 245). “(If) we review UNESCO policies on the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict, developing countries do not seem to find access or implement them.” Implications aligned to the UNESCO stance on initiatives focused on the protection of cultural property globally, therefore bears investigation to what extent this type of interface contributes to the tensions and armed conflict in the case of this scholastic exploration on Cambodia and Thailand over the border region where the temple sits. Border conflicts exist for different reasons and most draw from territorial disputes.
Popescu (2012, pp .3-4) explains the “unprecedented surge of interest in borders” particular to the past two decades among academics nonetheless shows any “comprehensive understanding of the nature and the direction of contemporary border changes” remains far from settled by scholars. His contentions hold where border conflict exist in the 21st century, there are specific and inherent complications underscoring such clashes between nations, “no single meaning or purpose behind state borders” explains their use succinctly. Cross-border cooperation between Cambodia and Thailand theoretically affords a better strategy than conflict offering the ability of pilgrims and cultural tourists access to the temple.
Herein, the pursuit of understanding what extent does the UNESCO World Heritage program prod this tension and fighting continuing today because while the temple sits on Cambodian soil atop a cliff the Thai side has the most accessible entrance to the holy site. The issue of the boundary dispute (explained in further detail in the proceeding academic discourse) dispute has legal underpinnings dating over 100 years ago specific to the Dangrek mountain range of both Thailand and Cambodia and where Preah Vihear stands.
Upon closer review, as provided in the ensuing scholastic discourse the literature shows the case of Cambodia and Thailand as an example of the UNESCO World Heritage program fraught with undesirable conflict between awareness of protecting cultural heritage sites such as the Preah Vihear temple and the actions aimed at cooperation as well as preservation. Aligned to the legalities of the border issue surrounding the Preah Vihear temple (Weisberg, 1963) and the outcome of the ownership specified as Cambodian connected to the UNESCO World Heritage program, the implications of this decision effect remains.
Nonetheless, as Keough (2011, pp. 593) explains, (Unintended) “effects can be mitigated, thereby restoring some of the noble ideals upon which the World Heritage program was founded.” Consequently, while the main intention of this academic examination of the UNESCO policies linked to its World Heritage program underpins the scholastic process in preparing this document using the example of Cambodia and Thailand and the Preah Vihear temple, the both sections on analysis and discussion look to identifying gaps in the literature on the overall situation.
In addition, connected to the disputed border territory where the cultural icon stands this scholastic investigation also considers to what extent the existing literature and public records on the legal actions connecting the temple to the continued conflict between Cambodia and Thailand add to the problematic nature (also further discussed) with the UNESCO World Heritage program contributing to the conflict.
The sweeping intentions of the UNESCO World Heritage program for preservation of the cultural history of nations as part of the global community continue challenging the courts with different issues directly arising from the process of naming and adding a specific national site to its World Heritage Site List (further discourse on these proceeds). Protection of cultural property does not fall within the protocols of UNESCO although clearly this organization continues supporting the precepts of developing an international-based appreciation of all cultural sites globally (Van der Auwera, 2000). Abundant literature exists providing specific insights drawn from the Meta research findings on the background of the UNESCO World Heritage Program in the categories listed in this document. This includes a review of the onset of the boundary dispute initiated near the temple during the early 20th century French colonial days in Vietnam with Thailand (then Siam). Further substantiating the implications arising from the UNESCO World Heritage program contributing to the conflict between Thai and Cambodian military forces as identified here, a review of a particular case study further allows additional insights to this complicated issue and the culpable actions of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.
Other sections of this scholastic endeavor include discourse about the inscription List and how the Committee manipulates the criteria ignoring its own protocols and both rationalizing and justifying who it allows included as the sovereign over a designated site. Describing the foundations of the World Heritage program, the good and the bad aspects provide another perspective in this search for meaning and accountabilities of the actions of this UNESCO program. Establishing the historical backdrop of the border issue compounded by the historical site ultimately claimed by both Thailand and Cambodia then looks at the literature in giving the Thai and the Cambodian point of view about the issue.
The case study presented as part of this academic process substantiating the claim posited in proving the depth of the World Heritage program has on creating and affecting international relations provides further awareness of the situation. The cases study particularly provides the extent of the influence the inappropriate designation of a site and it inscription on the World Heritage Committee List has on international relations of nations with more global impact than that of Cambodia and Thailand. The actions of the international court in response to the Cambodian case looks at the provisional measures imposed on Cambodia with dissenting judges questioning the susceptibility of Cambodian sovereignty under the order. With the foundations of the situation established and discussed, this academic research continues with an analysis section about the findings. The following scholastic project begins with the background on the UNESCO World Heritage program intentions and realities of those actions.
Background of UNESCO World Heritage Program
Galis (2009, pp. 208-213) explains the in 1972, “The General Conference of UNESCO adopted the World Heritage Convention” however, “the momentum for an international cooperative effort to protect cultural heritage began building much earlier, soon after World War I.” As previously outlined in this academic discourse, the main “impetus for the creation of such an international body occurred in the late 1950s when the Egyptian government announced its decision to build the Aswan High Dam” resulting in moving the temples in danger from the flooding and relocating it. Half of the $80 million or 50 million pound sterling cost of the project in the 1950s came from contributions by over fifty nations of the global community “in a demonstration of international cooperation.”
Other activities proving similar to the international effort for protecting natural treasures came about in 1965 with the White House hosting a conferencing asking the development of a "World Heritage Trust," along with a 1968 proposal announced by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. During the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment, the UN
Assembly initially first deliberated the two proposals ultimately merging them into a single texted document with the General Conference of UNESCO adopting it the same year (Galis, 2009).
Nations chosen for inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List (discussed further in this document) as the home of the cultural and natural sites designated by the Committee as important to humanity then have access to varieties of international resources including the World Heritage Fund. Of course, the designation raises awareness and increases the opportunity for tourism and the income it generates. To date, the Committee designates well over 1,000 sites protected (Galis, 2009).
Schmitt (2009, pp. 118-119) further outlines how, “The World Heritage regime is a mayor example for the multi-level governance of cultural artefacts and the meta cultural production of a global offer for identification in an emerging World Society.” Thus, this “global cultural governance” as well as “decision-making concerning World Heritage between politics and science governance” also append to how the “World Heritage and this meta cultural production are both conducted by scientific and political considerations.” This reflects through the “different conditions, possibilities, and constraints on the local, national, and global governance scale.” Taking consideration from a global scale perspective then distinguishing between “an ‘everyday’ and a ‘mid-term’ or ‘long-term’ governance by the World Heritage regime” thus includes “modifications to its key concepts.” [Sic]
The typical daily governance mainly addresses updating both the World Heritage List and the List of World Heritage in Danger. In doing so, this determines the types of UNESWCCO interventions respective of managing the World Heritage Sites. Regulation of the World Heritage governance remains connected to the UNESCO 1972 text of the Convention including its current 2005 Operational Guidelines. At this level, the Committee retains its seemingly undisputed sovereign power. However, upon closer inquiry, from the perspective of the global scale the World Heritage shows it goes by a defined system of checks and balances governing activities between the Committee, the UNESCO administrative body as well as its advisory entities (Schmitt, 2009; Rao, 2010; Robison, 2013; Sang-Hun, 2006; Tanaka, 2012; Touch, 2009).
However, by design the Committee remains free to ignore this check and balance advisory according to unwritten rules with the organization system of governance. At the same time, again by design, the Committee must maintain protocol and never purposefully and unduly snub the advisory bodies set in place. Accordingly, it is both the formal and informal global level rules of the World Heritage that deems it having an expert position or having unrestricted diplomatic rule (Schmitt, 2009).
Further to Schmitt, (2009, p. 119) who outlines, “Unlike in the classical concept of the separation of powers, there is no judicative in stance or instance for appeal against decisions made by the Committee.” Regardless how “the World Heritage List (remains a global) production based on the artefacts of different cultural traditions, the global governance of World Heritage shows that different intellectual styles play a remarkable role in the negotiations of the Committee as an institution of an emerging world society.” Therefore, the emphatically and specifically regulated body “of the World Heritage Committee, in accordance with an international diplomatic culture, impedes the constructive management of conflicts” as exemplified by the Thai/Cambodian border issue connected to the Temple of Preah Vihear. Resolving such a conflict (and others similarly exist globally) in a constructive manner, reveals the limitations of the Committee facing such issues.
Sovereignties Claiming a Site
Galis (2009, p. 208) explains, “While the Convention defines criteria for inscription of cultural and natural heritage sites in deliberately broad terms.” In doing so, this further “charges the World Heritage Committee (the Committee) with defining specific selection criteria.” The problematic issue with the criteria aligns with the Committee having no boundaries in selecting a site where political discord exists between two or more nations claim a site. While, the criteria “indicates that state consent is required for inclusion on the (World Heritage) List, and further indicates (whether) ‘inclusion of a property situated in a territory, sovereignty or jurisdiction over which is claimed by more than one State shall in no way prejudice the rights of the parties to the dispute.’” Further compounding this issue connects to the provision failing in offering objective guidelines “as to how such disputes should be resolved or factored into the decision to add a site to the List.”
According to the Convention, any indication of a dispute between sovereignties over a particular property – as is the clear issue between Thailand and Cambodia over the Temple of Preah Vihear – does not in any way bias rights of either of the disagreeing parties in later seeking identification as owner of the site in their separate names. As a result, this lacks any incentive toward the discord resolution between the parties (Galis, 2009).
Some fact about the Committee and disputes about sites:
The Guidelines include more direction about site disputes than does the Convention by listing criteria for placement on the List of World Heritage in Danger, a list of threatened sites.27 Relevant to consideration of sites exposed to dangerous conditions is the inclusion of factor (v), ‘outbreak or threat of armed conflict.’ Consequently, a site that (open to potential harm) by armed conflict could be placed on the list of threatened sites to receive immediate assistance allocated by the Committee from the World Heritage Fund. The Guidelines also instruct Committee members to bear in mind that ‘it is often impossible to assess certain threats-such as the threat of armed conflict-as to their effect on cultural or natural properties ’” (Galis, 2009, pp. 211-212) [Sic]
Galis (2009, pp. 212-213) explains how, “This exhortation, while not a brightline rule, urges members to consider the problems associated with protecting sites in battle zones.” [Sic] As a result, “The armed-conflict factor is the closest that any of UNESCO's governing documents come to expressly acknowledging political discord when considering sites for inclusion on the List.” Politically sensitive issues also exist within certain of the Committee “procedural mechanisms, specifically in the nomination and selection processes, that incorporate considerations of politically sensitive issues.” Since both Thailand and Cambodia conformed to “the rule that only State Parties, nations having signed the Convention, may submit proposals for properties within their boundaries to be considered for inscription on the List” adds to the implications of the Committee contributing to the discord existing today between the two sovereignties.
When Thailand received the initial Committee recognition as having sovereignty over the site in 2008 the political underpinnings created an issue with Cambodia connected to a century old legal boundary (as already explained) then called Siam and controlled under the colonialism of France. At the 2008 listing of Thailand having control of the temple site, the international community led by the UN were well aware of the boundary dispute going on between Thailand and Cambodia that clearly involved ownership of the historical heritage site.
The World Heritage Committee has the option for deferring a decision that it did not impose at the time in order to confer with both Thailand and Cambodia over a possible joint effort on the site by the two nations (Galis, 2009).
Galis (2009, pp. 212-213) outlines how UNESCO nonetheless maintain “governing documents (acknowledging) sources of political conflict, and the nomination and selection processes contain implicit checks to discourage inscription of disputed sites, express guidance regarding disputed sites is lacking.” Case studies exist (further discussed in this scholastic investigation) as an example “of the political ramifications stemming from the Committee's failure to consider political strife in the selection process for inscribing sites on the World Heritage List.”
Further to this issue, Van der Auwera (2013, pp. 255-258) explains the significance and the policy UNESCO holds “on the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict from a developmental perspective. The protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict and the preparation of this process are important for developing countries since underdevelopment is often interwoven with identity-based armed conflicts, in which cultural heritage is intentionally targeted and in which (evidently) the looting of museums and archaeological sites frequently occurs.”
While clearly, conserving a nation’s cultural property potentially contributes to its development as a player in the rapidly shrinking world community with the willingness of UNESCO having a significant role in the situation, there are nonetheless considerable deficiencies remaining with the organization influencing continued strife such as that between Cambodia and Thailand directly linked to a World Heritage designated site. This directly aligns to developing countries such as these two nations either purposefully or indirectly implementing any of the relevant policies for cooperation under UNESCO policies (Van der Auwera, 2013).
Various opportunities for both Cambodia and Thailand obtaining assistance prescribed by the Second Protocol of the 1954 UN Convention exist but cannot take place without both of these nations asking in specific detailed accounts of identified threats elaborately described. A cooperative approach to maintaining the safety of the Temple of Preah Vihear by both Thailand and Cambodia with the UNESCO assistance means the required information includes equipment, personnel, detailed budget, and a timetable (Van der Auwera, 2013).
However, as further outlined by Van der Auwera (2013, pp. 255-256) those “states with a low level of development are not always able to do this or they do not consider the demanding process of requesting international assistance, enhanced protection, etc. a priority.” Further, “an internationalist vision of heritage conservation has prevailed in recent years (and makes a) vision (an) idea that cultural heritage belongs to all of us and thus is not national property as such.” At present, no answer to the dilemma seems evident and the question arises, “Is it possible to let UNESCO intervene when really necessary?” Conversely, “Or is this still a bridge too far in a world order of sovereign states governing international organisations?” The highest level for political decisions still lay with the individual sovereignties and “thus cultural policy decisions are made in the current world order and in international organisations.”
Keeping in mind any adoption of an international heritage policy remains the exclusive responsibility of the state in question must also remember the limitations of UNESCO abridge to its capacity for contributing to the process through proffered encouragement as well as raising awareness. An example of a World Heritage initiated precedent concerning inclusion of
However, we must point to a precedent created by the World Heritage concerning the Croatian city of Dubrovnik with inclusion on the 1991 Danger List specifically going against its own policies with the failure for receiving a request from the state the city exists (Van der Auwera, 2013).
Van der Auwera (2013, p. 256) describes how, “This precedent is not linked to the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict in developing countries, but it does
(provide other) perspectives.” The case of Dubrovnik shows, “The ability of states and international organisations to actively contribute to the protection of cultural property in another state is still very limited.” Adoption of the Second Protocol at the UNESCO conference, the proposed adoption of an outside state requesting, “(An) enhanced protection of a property in another country with the purpose of nominating the cultural property of minorities (was) not approved.” The implications of the varying weaknesses existing in the manner the Committee fluctuates from its own protocols, makes decisions that vacillates as it had to with the International Court of Justice changing the sovereignty over the temple from Thailand to Cambodia.
In addition, as Van der Auwera (2013, pp. 256-257) reports, “The UNESCO policy on cultural property protection in the event of armed conflict still seems to rely on a western interpretation and approach to cultural heritage. Consequently, “This UNESCO policy relates only to tangible cultural heritage and not to intangible heritage.” According to practices among non-western nations, the tendency holds that cultural heritage typically exists as a whole and an object and building never exist separately according to tradition and a set value. “In regard to a more general evolution in cultural heritage policies, which is also reflected in UNESCO policies (thus indicates) more attention must be given to intangible heritage in the framework of protection efforts in the event of armed conflict.”
Little debate ensues connecting this to the Thai and Cambodian conflict because as developing nations they would fit the previous discussion of how they “are more interested in economic value than in socio-psychological benefits” of the temple. More details of the World Heritage List follows offering a better understanding of the convoluted process as exemplified by the Thai/Cambodian problem.
The World Heritage List and the Temple of Preah Vihear
According to Frey and Steiner (2011, p. 555), “The UNESCO World Heritage List contains the (over 1,000) most treasured sites of humanity’s culture and landscapes.” The benefit of this List aligns to its identification of “undetected, disregarded by national decision-makers, not commercially exploitable, and where national financial resources, political control, and technical knowledge for conservation are inadequate.” Consequently, the temple of Preah Vihear dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva fits the UNESCO criteria for inclusion on its list, explicitly as it remains situated on the plain of Cambodia at the edge of a plateau. However, like the disputed border the history of the temple also derives from complex beginnings dating back to the 9th century at the founding of the hermitage. The remarkable preservation of the temple is due mainly to its extreme remote location again, making it a focus of the UNESCO World Heritage List criteria.
Further, as reported by Frey and Steiner (2011, p. 245), in understanding the inclusion of a site on the Committee list incurs other considerations fitting the Temple of Preah Vihear as contributing to the economic development of the nation it belongs – which is now Cambodia. This economic consideration (as outlined previously) shows how “Alternatives such as market and national conservation lists (as) more beneficial where the cultural and natural sites are already popular, markets work well, and where inclusion in the List does not raise the destruction potential by excessive tourism, and in times of war, or by terrorists.” The reference to, “in times of war,” which, emerges problematic as connected to the UNESCO World Heritage program (as previously discussed) as it relates to the border territory and consequently, where the temple at Preah Vihear sits abundantly ties it to the causal factors of the armed border conflict between Cambodia and Thailand.
The World Heritage List compiled by UNESCO, according to Frey and Steiner (2011, p. 245) explains now stands as a popular as well as highly effective global legal tool for the protection of natural and cultural heritage sites internationally. Numerous World Heritage sites continue gaining popularity as cultural tourism attractions as well as considered national icons.
“In the 1920s, the League of Nations became aware of the growing threat to the cultural and natural heritage on our planet.” Regardless, of numerous efforts over the years, it was not until 1959 through the successful UNESCO-led international campaign saving the Abu Simbel temples in the Nile Valley the first international cultural heritage sites salvaged. With further success through the UNESCO 1966 spearhead of an international campaign, Venice emerged safely from disastrous flooding threatening the survival of the city.
These successes provided UNESCO the impetus for concrete action:
“In November 1972, the General Conference of UNESCO adopted the Convention concerning the protection of the world cultural and natural heritage at its 17th session in Paris. The Convention ‘seeks to encourage the identification, protection, and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity’. It came into force in 1977 and was ratified by 20 nations; the Convention now includes 187 countries, and the World Heritage List comprises 911 sites, 2704 (or 77%) of which relate to culture, 180 to nature, and 27 are mixed, i.e. combined cultural and natural heritage”. (Frey and Steiner, 2011, p. 555-567)
At the same time, as Keough (2011, pp. 606-609) explains the repercussions exclusion from the UNESCO World Heritage List occurs as exemplified by the 1983 denial of inclusion of the Bamiyan Valley of Afghanistan. Consequently, “Eighteen years later, many of the giant Buddha’s carved into the rock cliffs of Bamiyan were destroyed by the Taliban as part of a program to rid the country of non-Muslim influences.” This brings apparent criticism how “these priceless cultural landmarks might have been saved had UNESCO stepped in earlier.” However, as further demonstrated with the conflict between Thailand and Cambodia over the Temple of Preah Vihear UNESCO naming a site on the List does not mean the organization could anymore stop the violence between these two than it could have “the Taliban from unleashing their reign of cultural terror.” [Sic]
In armed situations like the one in Afghanistan with the Taliban and this current one between Thailand and Cambodia there is even speculation the UNESCO Western connections may contribute to the direct targeting of the Afghanistan cultural site, or to the already unstable situation in the two Asian nations. The main point arising between these two examples and the implications about the World Heritage program looks at the potentially disastrous effect on either situation. The hypothetical situation of Afghanistan and the decision excluding a site, and the ongoing strife in Thailand and Cambodia more than imply there is harm than more good and in any similar situation globally an ever- present risk (Keough, 2011).
As Keough (2011, pp. 609-610) further defines, it is the proactive intention of the Convention ensuring preservation of historically held cultural sites globally, “Proactively ensuring preservation does not mean that UNESCO should have power over sovereign states; rather, as the ultimate goal of the Convention, it should guide the program's actions to err on the side of protecting sites.” Unlike the Temple of Preah Vihear remote location that continues assuring its relative safety from human traffic, like “many World Heritage sites around the world” another concern arises from sites making the list and encouraging such harmful traffic including the Galapagos Islands, Machu Pichu, and Angkor. Establishing its international reputation, the UNESCO World Heritage program assures the likelihood of amazing numbers of world tourists traveling to the most remote of places around the globe.
The assertion of how the Temple at Preah Vihear receiving the World Heritage Site designation also looks at the ingress for the nation having possession receiving desired tourist dollars (Causay, 1996). The other side of this looks at the pragmatic possibility of the trampling and trashing of the sacred site by tourists. Herein, again the World Heritage program has no power or intentions of monitoring or stopping such unforeseen outcomes of its actions (Keough, 2011).
In the case of Cambodia designated the host nation of the Temple of Preah Vihear by international law (Limsira, 2008; Milano, 2004; Oliver, 1962; Pakdeekong, 2009; Shulman, 2012; Tanaka, 2012; Touch, 2009; Traviss, 2007; Valencia-Ospina, 1999; Weisberg, 1963; Williams, 2011) looks at the potential economic benefit. With legal designation ((Barnett, 2012; Brauchli, 1963; Buss, 2010; Chan, 2004; Duke University, 1963; Giorgetti, 2011; Johnson, 1962; Leonhard, 1967-1968) ascribed to the World Heritage program naming the Temple of Preah Vihear as the possession of Cambodia may also prove the nation ill-equipped to handle any resulting consequences of a hefty tourist trade (Keough, 2011).
As Keough (2011, p. 610) explains, “(In) bringing people to a location unequipped to deal with the consequences of tourism seriously undermines the World Heritage program's altruistic beginnings and goals.” While the World Heritage organization attempted curtailing such type of tourist destruction, even so as “it adds some sites to its "in Danger" list, it continues to overlook others.” The obvious problem with the Thai/Cambodia issue concerning the Temple of Preah Vihear is the fact is the fragility of the situation. The World Heritage program naming it an international historical and cultural site looms a moot issue as long as there exists armed conflict between Thailand and Cambodia. Literature shows political realities are only part of the issues aligned to the Temple Preah Vihear site.
According to Silverman (2010, p. 18), “The World Heritage List is neither a value-free nor a monolithically positive mechanism for site protection, economic development, and generation of universally held feelings of shared heritage. Further, “The decision to inscribe a site cannot be divorced from political and other realities.” Therefore, “The vetting that a State-Party’s dossier goes through before arriving at the World Heritage Committee for a vote still may not indicate all the issues that need to be taken into consideration when deciding upon inscription in the World Heritage List, notwithstanding conformity to the Operational Guidelines.” Consequently, as the author notes, a recent 2010 article in “The Economist” criticizing the secretive aspects of the decision-making policy of the World Heritage Committee increasingly becomes afflicted with political underpinnings.
In addition, Silverman (2010, p. 18) explains the article also calls for transparency in the designation process of recognizing an international cultural site by the World Heritage Committee. “The nomination dossier presents a best-case scenario consensus view. The World Heritage Committee is susceptible to pressure and has its own agenda.” Therefore, “If the World Heritage Committee meetings were open to the public, then important factual opinions possibly not included in the dossiers or discussions could be brought into the deliberations” In this, the process would allow presentation “by qualified outside parties such as ICAHM (International Committee on Archaeological Heritage Management), NGOs (non-governmental organizations), and professionals and scholars from relevant academic fields with broader contextual knowledge and, arguably, more caution than the World Heritage Committee.” Review thus far, in this academic investigation and discourse about the intentions and actions of the World Heritage Committee shows both good and bad consequences from both an abstract and pragmatic approach. The following section delves further into this.
World Heritage Good and Bad Consequences
Galis (2009, pp. 206, 211-213) notes, “The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) World Heritage Convention” known as "the most successful global instrument for the protection of cultural and natural heritage," while at the same time, criticized as "an instrument of 'foreign domination'” due to its overt ties to the West. Since its inception and adoption in 1972 by the UN, “the World Heritage Convention (the Convention) is intended to identify, protect, and preserve cultural and natural heritage sites of ‘outstanding universal value’ around the world.”
As the focus of this scholastic enterprise remains on the Thai/Cambodia example as one of several controversial issues connected to the Committee naming the Temple of Preah Vihear to its List connects to the change on the List from initially naming Thailand having sovereignty over, the site to the recent change to Cambodia. “When determining whether a site should be inscribed on the List, the World Heritage Committee primarily determines whether the site meets one or more of ten criteria for "outstanding universal value."
As previously presented in this document and outlined, Galis (2009, pp. 206, 211-213) concurs, “Although the Committee is not explicitly bound to consider political discord in its decisions, the Convention and Guidelines are not entirely silent as to potential disputes.” The abundantly clear failure of the guidelines the Committee uses in determining inclusion of a disputed site such as that at the Temple of Preah Vihear lay in the absence of any means of offering “guidance as to how such disputes should be resolved or factored into the decision to add a site to the List.” Consequently, this situation shows the good and bad consequences of the Committee List.
The fundamental idea of a World Heritage program looks at the example of what Keough (2011, p. 531) refers about “the 2001 bombing of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan by the Taliban and, more recently, the United States' military presence at Babylon in Iraq (making) the world has become increasingly aware of the dangers facing cultural heritage sites.” [Sic] The consequences of the awareness as already pointed out and the actions taken intentionally seeking preservation of all cultural sites and objects remains problematic and clearly are not a synonymous process.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization ("UNESCO") leads the world in acting to preserve the world's natural and cultural wonders through its World Heritage program. Nevertheless, in its involvement with heritage sites around the globe, the World Heritage program may have created a culture of economic and political quagmires rather than cooperation and preservation”. (Keough, 2011 p. 593) [Sic]
Aligned to the purpose of this scholastic investigation determining the validity and extent of the World Heritage program influencing the already tenuous conditions surrounding the Temple Preah Vihear complex site between Cambodia and Thai military forces therefore, examines the status of the border issue between these two nations in relation to the cultural and religious icon located in the region. Understanding the lengthy border issue provides another insight for determining the culpability of the Committee List influencing the Thai/Cambodian conflict.
The Cambodia and Thai Border Issue
Yoosuk (2013, p. 921) succinctly describes the dispute between the two nations of Cambodia and Thailand as directly related to the PreahVihear temple. The tension behind the skirmishes between the two Southeast Asian neighbours in Southeast Asia results from two specific causes ambiguity about the 4.6 kilometres disputed area along the Thai and Cambodia border and domestic political issues – especially connected to Thailand.
Galis (2009, pp. 214-221) explains how the temple was, “Initially built as a mountain hermitage” and how “the Temple was constructed on a site chosen by Suryavarman I, an eleventh century king of the Khmer Empire, on a promontory of the Dangrek mountain range over 1,722 feet above a Cambodian plain." The site for the temple proved desirable because of its “unique mountain-top position.” Complicating the current issue connects directly “despite the fact that the temple is located on Cambodian territory, the only easy route of access to it is from the Thai side of the border.” The cultural underpinnings of the “significance of this temple derives, in part, from a divine event in Buddhist history” leading to vast “renovations by Suryavarman I (as) supposedly inspired by the miraculous manifestation in physical form of a god on Earth.” Inscription at the site proves a testament to the acclaimed miracle reading, "His Majesty, by the strength of his asceticism, brought it about that the god Bhadreshvara of
Lingapura came to reign over Shri Shikhareshvara to manifest his power visibly, for the world to behold.”
The significance of these maps and the century long conflict over the border between today’s Thailand and Cambodia lay in one of the maps clearly placing the Preah Vihear temple on the Cambodian side of the newly defined border between the two nations. However, due to the dissolution of the French/Siam committee in charge of approving the map showing the watershed line marking the Thai/Cambodian border prior to production of the official map remains the root of the issue today (Galis, 2009). Subsequently, two decades later the issue arose again (P.
Galis (2009, p. 216) explains, “In direct opposition to the French officers' findings, surveys conducted by Thailand between 1934 and 1935 indicated that, based on the ‘true’ location of the watershed line, the Temple was actually located in Thailand.” Regardless, of “this revelation, the Thai Government continued to rely on and publish maps indicating Preah Vihear's location on the Cambodian side of the border.” [Sic] Additionally, “when Prince Damrong of Siam visited the Temple in 1930, Siam (now Thailand) did not protest his official reception by Preah Vihear Province's French Resident.”
In hindsight, at this point in history, the obvious looks at the pragmatic action for the Siamese protesting the temple control in the hands of the Cambodian government due to the probability of Prince Damrong considering any other government reception as an overt act of disrespect to Siamese sovereignty. Nonetheless, this did not happen. At the same time, the failure of Thailand placing an objection to the existing map during the Siam-Cambodian negotiations during both the 1925 and the 1937 frontier treaties between Franco-Siamese officials proved historically problematic leading to the tension and fighting historically between Thailand and Cambodia (Galis, 2009).
Different factions in Thailand in response to the Thai ruling on the attempted accord between Cambodia and Thailand over the Temple of Preah Vihear used the incident inciting national ardour with different actions of infighting taking place in the government. The reaction also connected to the Court ruling in favour of Cambodia sovereignty and having inscription for the temple on the World Heritage List as illegal (Galis, 2009).
In Cambodia, the streets filled with celebration once UNESCO listed the temple as a Cambodian World Heritage Site although remaining closed. Thais in the meantime from their position at the gate of the temple continued entering. Forced resignations of several of Thailand’s top ministers resulted from the Court decision in favour of Cambodia because they had initially supported the joint communique (Galis, 2009).
During the following days, both Thailand and Cambodia continued building up troop placement along the border in contention while at the same time, nonetheless, the Cambodian and Thai leadership planned having peaceful talks with Cambodia vying for Thailand withdrawing their troops from the border. At one point, between the two nations there were nearly 1,500-armed troops stationed at the frontier (Galis, 2009; Clause, 2011).
Ultimately, Cambodia sought out help from the UN Security Council attempting avoiding a possible armed conflict with Thailand. The was only after failed bilateral discussion held by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) attempting producing a joint agreement between Cambodia and Thailand over the border dispute with the temple at the centre of the