After closing five years ago because of rebel activity, the ancient Cambodian hilltop temple of Preah Vihear reopened for tourists on Saturday, attracting thousands wanting a look at the 1,000-year-old temple.
“We guarantee the safety of all tourists, including their lives and belongings,” Surani Task Force commander Major General Vivat Satarak told Agence France-Presse.
The temple, set on a ridge opposite Thailand’s northeastern province of Si Sa Ket, was opened under a bilateral agreement between the Thai and Cambodian armies on a trial basis, according to a Bangkok Post report Sunday. Vivat was cited in the Post as saying that if all goes well a formal agreement will be hammered out between the two governments for a permanent opening.
During the 1950s and early 1960s, a dispute over the temple seriously strained relations between the two countries. The temple sits on the edge of a cliff and is accessible only from the Thai side of the border, but in 1962 the World Court ruled the temple was Cambodian.
The temple will be open daily from 8 am to 4 pm, according to the Post report. Cambodian officials will charge foreign tourists $2.50 for adults and Thai adults $0.75.
The Thais will not charge entrance fees, the Post reported, but expect to benefit from parking fees and sales by souvenir shops, and a restaurant at the foot of the temple.
According to the Post, more than 1,000 tourists showed up by noon Saturday. Cambodian officials had to recycle tickets when the 700 they had prepared ran out by 10 am.
Preah Vihear opened to tourists in early 1992, but fell under the control of Khmer Rouge guerrilla forces in 1993. Cambodia’s RCAF recaptured the temple in March.
Two Belgian tourists visiting the temple in 1994 were killed by the Khmer Rouge. Their suspected remains were found at the foot of the cliff in May.