Banteay Chmar temple in northwest Cambodia has more in common these days with such international landmarks as the ancient Roman city of Pompeii and the Peruvian ruins of Machu Picchu.
The three sites are all on the New York-based World Monuments Fund’s list of 100 most endangered cultural landmarks.
Unesco’s Phnom Penh office said Banteay Chmar was accepted for inclusion in the elite group late last month.
Although its position on the list won’t necessarily end the wholesale looting that has threatened the 800-year-old temple, an official at the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said that Banteay Chmar stands to benefit in several ways.
“This will definitely make it easier to apply for further funding to protect the site,” said Teruo Jinnai, a culture program specialist at Unesco. “In addition, there will be greater international pressure to return objects stolen from the temple that have found their way to other countries.”
Jinnai added that Banteay Chmar’s new status obliges the government to take greater responsibility for protecting the country’s national heritage. The Ministry of Interior applied for the special status, with Unesco’s assistance.
Benefits of the temple’s listing may also include a $10,000 grant from the World Monument Fund, providing an acceptable plan is drawn up to employ the funds. Unesco, which is overseeing the use of grant money, would match that figure.
Unesco has so far committed $1,400 to preserve Banteay Chmar, including the expansion of the special police units.
The Thai government has not returned 117 pieces of the temple’s sculpture seized in January.
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