Foreign Minister Hor Namhong on Tuesday informed Indian Ambassador Dinesh Patnaik that Cambodia wants plans to build an Angkor Wat replica in that country scrapped entirely, ministry spokesman Chum Sunry told reporters after a meeting between the two officials to mark Mr. Patnaik’s last day in his position.
When news broke in 2012 that a private Indian company intended to construct a grander “replica” of Angkor Wat temple, the most well-known building in Siem Reap City’s 12th-century archaeological park, Cambodia’s disapproval was almost instant.
Since then, Cambodia’s position has hardened, despite assurances from India that it would change the original blueprints to protect the Unesco World Heritage Site’s integrity. Previously, Cambodia has asked that construction of the temple in Bihar province be temporarily halted, rather than canceled.
“His Excellency Hor Namhong asked the Indian government to completely stop the company from constructing the temple because Angkor Wat temple is a national symbol of Cambodia,” Mr. Sunry said, adding that apart from the discord over the construction project, Cambodian-Indian ties were growing ever closer.
Speaking by telephone Tuesday, Mr. Patnaik scotched Indian media reports that said he had discussed the possibility that India would order the company building the temple to cease construction.
“I think there must have been a language problem,” he said, adding that a democratic country could not intervene in a company’s right to build a temple, although it could ensure that the nation was not offending its friends.
“We have promised Cambodia that the temple will not be a replica of Angkor Wat, because to a large extent the Cambodians are entirely justified in being concerned because there is a lot of sentiment involved in Angkor Wat,” he said.
Mr. Patnaik said he had been happy to address the issue of the temple during his time as envoy.
“Cambodia is our friend and we will not allow a situation to occur that jeopardizes that,” he said.
Besides the issue of the planned temple in Bihar province, Mr. Namhong and Mr. Patnaik also discussed ways to improve relations.
“The Indian ambassador has prepared for a delegation from the Tourism Ministry to visit India next year,” Mr. Sunry said, adding that 28,000 Indian tourists visited Cambodia last year.