Myanmar’s objection may block Thai heritage claim

national July 21, 2016 01:00

By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM,
SUPALAK G

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Overlapping of border cited as reason; Thailand has time until October to resole issue before seeking Unesco recognition for Kaeng Krachan forest.



THAILAND FACES an uphill task pushing for inscription of the Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex (KKFC) as a World Heritage site after Myanmar raised concerns over boundary issues, but the Kingdom has until October to clear the way. 
Myanmar raised its objection on the grounds that part of proposed area is in territory under its sovereignty, and it wants Thailand to drop the proposal until the boundary demarcation is completed.
“Indeed, there is nothing to deal with the territory sovereignty and boundary demarcation,” said Thai Ambassador to Paris Sihasak Phuangketkeow, a member of Thai delegation to the Unesco World Heritage meeting. 
The revised coordinating points to determine the proposed property for the inscription did not cover the boundary of the two countries, he said. 
The boundary between Thailand and Myanmar was delimited by Anglo-Siamese treaties long ago. The two countries set up the Thailand-Myanmar Joint Boundary Committee in 1993 to take care of boundary demarcation but many areas along the 2,401-kilometre border have still not been settled.
The sudden coup attempt in Turkey last Saturday forced the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation to suspend a World Heritage meeting in Istanbul before any discussion of the details of the KKFC could begin. 
Sihasak Phuangketkeow, the Thai ambassador to France and a member of the Kingdom’s delegation to the World Heritage meeting, said the session would resume at Unesco headquarters in Paris in October, so “we have time to work out our differences with Myanmar”.
Thanya Netithammakun, director-general of the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department (DNP), said yesterday that the postponement would not affect the effort to push the KKFC as a World Heritage site.
However, he said the details of bilateral talks with Myanmar on the issue had not yet been planned, as the DNP would arrange a meeting with Thai delegates to the Turkey meeting today to get an official update so as to plan for the October meeting in Paris.
“The natural resources and environment minister will decide later on the discussions with Myanmar, but it is likely to be ministerial-level talks between the two nations to negotiate on the plan to clarify the boundary,” he said. 
Prasert Sonsatapornkul, director of the Thai World Heritage Coordination Centre and also a delegate to the Unesco meeting, said he was collecting details from the meeting to present to Natural Resources and Environment Minister General Surasak Kanjanarat in order to make plans for the talks with Myanmar.
The issue raised by Myanmar is not the only concern. Previously the Thai delegation anticipated that the problem of Karen ethnic communities in the area would be a major concern for Unesco.
However, Thanya said the Karen issue was no longer the main concern of Unesco. The department already has a plan to negotiate with the Karen communities to settle the problems between them and the national park, he said. 
Prasert said the Karen issue was included in Thailand’s report to Unesco, but it had not been discussed yet.
The Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex has been proposed to Unesco as a new World Heritage site since February 2011, and it was the major issue for Thailand at this meeting along with the unlocking of the Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex from the “List of World Heritage in Danger”.

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