8 February 2011 The United Nations cultural agency said today it plans to send a mission to assess the damage caused to the Preah Vihear Temple, a World Heritage site, by the recent armed clashes between Thailand and Cambodia.
Tensions first escalated between the South-East Asian neighbours in July 2008 following the build-up of military forces near the temple, which dates back to the 11th century and is located on the Cambodian side of the border.
The temple was inscribed on the World Heritage List of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) earlier that month.
There have been renewed armed clashes between the two countries in recent days, prompting calls for restraint by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Speaking to reporters in New York, Mr. Ban said he spoke to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva by telephone today, urging both leaders “to end violence, to exercise restraint, and find a lasting solution to the dispute.”
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova today reiterated her call for calm and restraint around the temple.
“World Heritage sites are the heritage of all humanity and the international community has a special responsibility to safeguard them. This requires a collective effort that must be undertaken in a spirit of consultation and dialogue,” she stated in a news release.
“Heritage should unite people and serve as an instrument of dialogue and mutual understanding and not of conflict.”
The temple, dedicated to the Hindu deity Shiva, is composed of a series of sanctuaries linked by a system of pavements and staircases over an 800-metre-long axis. The site is exceptional for the quality of its carved stone ornamentation and its architecture, adapted to the natural environment and the religious function of the temple, according to UNESCO.
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