Heritage Police Chief Om Phirum examines damage to part of Preah Vihear temple he says was caused by last week's fighting. (Photo by: Thet Sambath)
Wednesday, 08 April 2009
Written by Thet Sambath
The Phnom Penh Post
Machine-gun fire left deep holes and chips in World Heritage site; complaint lodged with UNESCO.
AN INVESTIGATION by Heritage Police at Preah Vihear temple suggests that the damage sustained during Friday's fighting was more serious but less widespread, than that resulting from an outbreak of violence last October.
"We have found 66 stones at the temple that were damaged by the Thai soldiers' shooting," said Colonel Om Phirum, the chief of the Heritage Police, in an interview with the Post Monday. "They were damaged by the bullets of machine guns."
During fighting last October, debris from M79 grenades damaged the temple in 120 places, Om Phirum said, though he noted that the bullets from machine guns during the most recent clashes inflicted damage that was more severe, creating holes that were between 1 and 10 centimetres wide and 1 or 2 centimetres deep.
Om Phirum criticised Thai soldiers for shooting the temple, saying, "They do not respect world heritage, and they disdain the world."
The investigation was conducted on Sunday and Monday. Om Phirum said the Heritage Police submitted a report on damage to the temple to the Council of Ministers and a complaint to the UN cultural agency, which listed the temple as a World Heritage site last July. He said the Heritage Police sent a similar complaint to UNESCO following the outbreak of violence last October, which he said prompted the body to launch its own investigation into the damage.
Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said Deputy Prime Minister Sok An sent a letter Friday to UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura asking him to intervene. Calls and emails to UNESCO officials in Phnom Penh and Bangkok went unanswered Tuesday.