A four-year plan to preserve Banteay Chhmar temple was put into action Monday during a ceremony held at the Banteay Meanchey province temple.
The plan is a cooperation between the Ministry of Culture and Global Heritage Fund, a US-based NGO that preserves archaeological and cultural sites in developing countries.
GHF has contributed $280,000 for 2008 and pledged through a memorandum of understanding to continue funding as appropriate for the subsequent three years.
“Our temple will be preserved and repaired from now on,” said Ok Sophon, a Culture Ministry director general.
Ok Sophon said that he is optimistic about the preservation efforts but emphasized that it will take about 20 years to fully restore the 12th-century sandstone temple and its surrounding wall of bas-reliefs, much of which lie in piles of jumbled ruins.
He said the long and run-down access road to the Angkorian temple was another major obstacle keeping the temple from becoming a popular tourist destination.
Under the Khmer Rouge and during ensuing conflicts, the temple became a battlefield.
“They shelled rockets and ar-tillery units into it,” Ok Sophon said, adding that 160 shells have been found on temple grounds.
Heng Rotana, deputy director of Cambodian Mine Action Center, said de-mining efforts in and around the temple are under way.
In the 1990s, the site became a favorite target of looters, and according to the GHF Web site, more than 50 square meters of bas-reliefs and countless pieces of statuary have been stolen.
Ou Lundy, Banteay Meanchey deputy governor, said Monday that there are plans to add more guards to the 20 that stand watch to prevent looting.
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