UNESCO designates special envoy for Hindu temple damaged in border clashes

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UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Friday designated a Special Envoy to address the Preah Vihear Temple which was damaged during recent border clashes between Cambodia and Thailand.

Koichiro Matsuura, former Director-General of UNESCO, was named Special Envoy and will visit Bangkok and Phnom Penh to discuss the safety of the Hindu temple inscribed on the World Heritage List.

Matsuura will examine with both Cambodia and Thailand how to lessen tension between the two sides as well as promote dialogue for the preservation of the 11th century temple.

On Tuesday, UNESCO announced that it would send a mission to assess the damage caused by the recent armed clashes between the two South-East Asian neighbors to the temple. The Preah Vihear Temple was inscribed on the World Heritage List in July 2008.

Cambodian-Thai tensions first escalated in 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.

Last week, fighting erupted between Cambodian and Thai soldiers along the border between Thailand's Si Sa Ket province and Cambodia's Preah Vihear province. One Thai soldier, one civilian and at least three Cambodians were reportedly killed Friday and Saturday in exchanges of small arms and artillery fire.

On Saturday, Thailand and Cambodia agreed on a ceasefire both the fighting resumed on Sunday. Each side blamed the other for initiating the shooting. The fire exchange has already caused severe damage to Cambodia's Preah Vihear Temple.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called both sides for restraint as clashes resumed on Monday and have continued in recent days. UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova called for calm as well.

The Hindu temple was dedicated to Shiva and is composed of a series of sanctuaries linked by a system of pavements and staircases over an 800-metre-long axis. The temple dates back to the first half of the 11th century AD. 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.

(Copyright 2011 by BNO News B.V. All rights reserved. )

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