Preah Vihear Work on Hold

The effort to give the Preah Vihear temples international status as a World Heritage site may mean depriving border areas in the province of radio and cellular telephone service for a while longer, the province’s police chief said.

Officials from the UN Ed­ucational, Scientific and Cultural Organization visited the temples to examine their potential as a World Heritage site last month and were dismayed to find two antennas—one for radio, one for the MobiTel phone network—being constructed right next to the complex.

The government has agreed to take the antennas down, Preah Vihear province police chief Chea San said.

“People here were very sad and disappointed when they heard the construction stopped,” Chea San said. “But this is the government’s decision to protect national heritage.”

Helicopters transported generators, sand, cement, steel and other construction materials to the antenna site at a cost of more than $400,000, and construction started in April, he said. No new site has been chosen, he said.

Unesco officials say building near the temples could jeopardize the government’s application for World Heritage status. The designation could boost tourism and open the way for international funding of protection and restoration projects.

“I was very pleased when the construction was stopped,” said Uong Von, director of the heritage department of the Ministry of Culture.

“It is for the national heritage of the Cambodian people,” he said.

“If they want to build [the antennas] there, they could do it after it was already registered as a World Heritage site.”

 

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