Since Preah Vihear Temple was named as a World Heritage Site exactly two years ago, Cambodia has depended on local funds for restoration efforts and continues to seek foreign support, according to Council of Ministers and National Authority for Preah Vihear officials.
Cambodia has spent since 2007 about $710 thousand annually from the national budget on restoration, safety and maintenance projects for the Preah Vihear Temple, said Chuch Phoeurn, chair of the NAPV and secretary of state for the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts. Projects that have been completed include the placement of more than 30 guards at the site, construction of wooden stairs leading up to the temple for visitors and the removal of plants that could damage the temple walls, said NAPV director general Hang Sorth, adding that authorities are now working to restore eight ancient reservoirs found at the foot of Preah Vihear mountain.
Additionally, a four-kilometer road from the edge of Preah Vihear mountain to the temple was completed in late 2009 and funded by local Bayon Foundation, said Ek Tha, spokesman for the press and quick reaction unit of the Council of Ministers, adding that foreign technical and financial support, however, is needed to ensure continued protection and preservation of the temple.
“We [have been] seeking the donations from donors soon as the temple was listed in July 2008,” Mr Tha said yesterday, noting that deputy prime minister Sok An spoke with Italian ambassador in Bangkok Michelangelo Pipan on Thursday evening about contributing to Preah Vihear Temple efforts. “So far the donors are interested in assisting Cambodia to preserve the Preah Vihear Temple, but up to this hour we have not received any financial or technical [support] from donors…. We continue our lobbying… We have been doing our best with what we have in our hands.”
As per the World Heritage Committee’s request, Cambodia submitted in Feb. 2009 a long-term management plan for the Preah Vihear temple, but the plan has not yet been enacted and will not be revealed until after the 34th World Heritage Committee session in Brazil at the end of this month, Mr Phoeurn said yesterday, adding that the plan was based on 13 recommendations from a group of foreign experts in archeology and landscaping, among others.
During the 32nd session of the World Heritage Committee, the committee also requested that Cambodia, in collaboration with Unesco, convene no later than Feb. 2009 an international coordinating committee to oversee the safeguarding and development of the property, resembling the Angkor Wat ICC, and that Thailand be invited to participate in the committee, according to a document from the session. However, Cambodia’s effort to establish a Preah Vihear Temple ICC has been stalled by conflict with Thailand regarding ownership of the temple and surrounding land, said director of Unesco in Cambodia Teruo Jinnai.
“Cambodia is in the process of trying to invite Thailand to sit on the Preah Vihear ICC along with seven other countries, but the conflict makes this a delicate thing,” Mr Jinnai said yesterday.
In October 2008, fighting between Thai and Cambodian troops erupted in three different locations near the Preah Vihear Temple, resulting in minor damage to the temple by stray bullets, according to a May 2009 report to the World Heritage Committee.
Officials from the Thai Embassy to Cambodia and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Thailand could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Lim Bun Hok, national programming officer for Unesco in Cambodia, said that Cambodia is looking to invite the United States, Belgium, China, France, Japan and India into the site’s ICC.
(Additional reporting by Andrew Burmon)