Sunday, April 12, 2009

UNESCO Experts Assess Damage at Preah Vihear Temple

BY BUTH REAKSMEY KONGKEA

A group of technical delegations from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) visited Preah Vihear temple to examine and study how to protect and conserve it for the future. The three-day visit, from March 31 to April 2, was led by Professor Azedine Beschaouch and accompanied by the Cambodian National Committee for UNESCO.

Phay Siphan, Secretary of State and Spokesman to the Council of Ministers, said the main purpose of the UNESCO visit was to directly examine and study the possibility to develop and preserve Preah Vihear temple in accordance to the agreement signed by the Royal Government of Cambodia and UNESCO in Quebec, Canada, on July 15, 2008, after the temple had officially been included into the World’s Heritage.

“The main purpose of the UNESCO’s visit is to examine the temple’s status and staircases which were damaged by Thai rockets during the clashes on October 15, 2008,” Siphan said. “Another objective of the visit is to see the real things happening at Preah Vihear temple, which is world property, to verify and evaluate how UNESCO will take actions and measures to preserve and protect the temple from being damaged in the future,” he said.

Hang Soth, Director General of the Preah Vihear Authority, said the authority has reported and asked the UNESCO to make an examination after Thai soldiers shot into the temple during a border clash with the Cambodian troops in October 2008.

Soth said the authority also submitted a project proposal for temple’s conservation to the UNESCO headquarters, based in France, through the Cambodian National Committee for UNESCO last year.

He said to create a protection zone around the World Heritage site, the authority also posted three UNESCO and World Heritage signs around the temple on November 7, 2008, to prevent further damage of the site. He added that the new signs have demarcated a new protection zone to deter fighting in the area at the Preah Vihear temple site.

“We hope that with the strong helpful support from the Royal Government of Cambodia and UNSESCO, we will be able to protect and preserve the Preah Vihear temple for the next generation,” Soth said.

The temple is one of the most striking to have been built during the 600-year-long Khmer empire and it was mainly built over a 100 to 150 year period during the reigns of the kings Suryavarman (1002-1050) and Suryavarman II (1113-1150), according to the Cambodian documents and historical books.

The historical books said its main architectural features are Khmer in origin but signs of earlier influences, particularly the Banteay Srei style, is noticeable in the earlier buildings.

The Preah Vihear temple’s carved friezes one is of particular interest as it shows King Suryavarman II going about his devotions and presenting gifts of white parasols, gold bowls and elephants to his spiritual leader. It is just one example of the outstanding carvings to be found at the temple.

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