Cablegate: Unesco - Preah Vihear Technical Meeting Paris
DE RUEHFR #0570/01 0861452
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 261452Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2394
RUEHBK/AMEMBASSY BANGKOK 0364
RUEHPF/AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH 0239
UNCLAS PARIS 000570
FROM USMISSION UNESCO PARIS
DEPARTMENT PASS TO NPS - STEPHEN MORRIS AND RICHARD SUSSMAN
EMBASSY BANGKOK FOR MARY-GARDNER COPPOLA
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: UNESCO SCUL
SUBJECT: UNESCO - PREAH VIHEAR TECHNICAL MEETING PARIS
1. (SBU) Summary: Without the Thai or American experts present,
UNESCO's Culture Sector organized a two-day technical meeting on
Preah Vihear in Paris March 25-26. It was clear that there are many
serious issues that have not been thought through by the Cambodians.
These will require agreement with the Thais if they are to be
successfully resolved. End summary.
2. (SBU) The US Mission to UNESCO sent its political specialist to
sit in on the afternoon session of the first day of discussions of
the technical meeting on Preah Vihear. The US Mission
representative did not take the floor in the discussions, but simply
introduced himself and said he was there to listen.
3. (SBU) According to Giovanni Boccardi, Unit Chief for East Asia
and the Pacific in UNESCO's World Heritage Center, UNESCO's Phnom
Penh field office had been informed by the Thai government last
Friday by letter that they would not be attending the meeting. The
US Mission informed Francoise Riviere's office, UNESCO's ADG for
Culture, on Friday by e-mail that the US expert, Richard Sussman,
would not be attending.
4. (SBU) Despite this, the agenda for the meeting was not revised,
and time had been set aside for presentations by both the Thai
experts and Richard Sussman. Although Mr. Sussman was not
physically present, his name was invoked continually during the
presentations and discussions.
5. (SBU) While Mr. Boccardi represented ADG Riviere, who launched
the meeting with a brief welcome, Professor Azedine Beschaouch,
Special Advisor for Cambodia to the ADG Culture, was clearly running
the meeting. Beschaouch did his best to push the two Cambodian
representatives present, Mr. Ty Yao, President, Cambodian National
Authority for Preah Vihear, and Mrs. Tan Theany, General Secretary
of the Cambodian National Commission for UNESCO, to accept a number
of changes to Cambodia's proposal for the World Heritage Committee.
6. (SBU) The other experts present were Professor Koenraad Van
Balen, Director of the Centre Raymond Lemaire at the University of
Leuven, Belgium, Mr. Antoine Bruguerolle, Heritage architect,
France, Mr. Michel Verrot, Advisor to the Royal Government of
Cambodia, and Dr. Divay Gupta, Heritage Specialist, India. Mr. Feng
Jing, Program Specialist from the World Heritage Center's East Asia
and Pacific Unit was attended the meeting. Finally, Messrs. Blaise
Kilian and Philippe Delanghe from the UNESCO field office in Phnom
Penh were also present.
7. (SBU) Dr. Gupta spoke on the 35 action projects that he had
identified requiring work at the Preah Vihear site. Mentioning the
demining of the area surrounding the site, Dr. Gupta said that he
believes some 80 percent has now been demined, adding that the
specialists doing the work had previously demined the Angkor Wat
temple, and have experience in working in archeological sites. He
also mentioned that the Chinese had begun work on the new road to
the Preah Vihear site, while claiming that no decision had been
taken about the final end point of the road.
8. (SBU) Mr. Bruguerolle spoke about the need to define a 10 square
kilometer protected area around the site in order to ensure the
preservation of the zone. When asked about the number of people now
living in the area, Mr. Yao was unable to provide any clear answers.
Beschaouche pushed him hard to find out if the Cambodians have any
legal authority to restrict people from settling in the zone today.
Yao said that a royal decree would be needed, and that such a decree
would take at least a month or two to arrange.
9. (SBU) Beschaouche was quite aggressive with the Cambodians on
several issues where they have not yet taken decisions needed to
present the site inscription in the best possible light.
Beschaouche repeatedly asked that various photos and maps be
changed, and that references to an "aerodrome" be dropped to ensure
a positive response from the World Heritage Committee.
10. (SBU) Several times during the discussion, Beschaouche told the
Cambodians that they would need to negotiate specific issues with
the Thai, particularly in connection with access to the welcome
center from both countries, and the general issue of capacity, in
terms of cars, shuttles, and tourists. Mr. Yao and Mrs. Theany
listened carefully, but very clearly were not prepared to give
substantive answers to any of Beschaouche's questions.
11. (SBU) Comment: UNESCO's decision to hold this meeting, despite
the absence of both the Thais and the American expert, gave the
impression of real desperation in the Culture Sector's front office.
The Cambodians would appear to be deluded if they believe that the
current dossier will be accepted without major revisions that will
require lengthy negotiations with the Thai government. The heavy
French representation was noteworthy (the proceedings were conducted
in French, for example), but demonstrates the importance of the
Preah Vihear project both here in Paris and at UNESCO. End comment.