Royere, an ‘Impassioned Aficionado of Angkor’

For two decades, Pascal Royere was a familiar sight in the Angkor Archeological Park, a quiet man with infinite patience who looked at every stone of a monument as if it was a priceless diamond.

Friends and colleagues described Mr. Royere, who passed away on Wednesday in France, as an expert who would not let torrential downpours or mudslides prevent him from restoring the Khmer monuments to which he devoted almost two decades of his life. 

An architect specialized in monument restoration, Mr. Royere was 28-years-old when, in 1995, he was sent to Cambodia by the Ecole Francaise d’Extreme-Orient (EFEO), the French-government institution that has been restoring Angkorian monuments for more than a century.

Like many French archeologists past and present, Cambodia was his passion.

“He deeply loved this country, he loved its people and kept them in his thoughts until the end,” said Dominique Soutif, who heads the EFEO office in Siem Reap City.

During his time in Cambodia, Mr. Royere was entrusted with important but problematic monuments.

The first one was the Baphuon, Angkor Park’s largest monument after Angkor Wat, which had been dismantled for restoration in the 1960s and abandoned during decades of war.

When he embarked on the Baphuon rebuilding project in 1995, the temple’s thousands of stones laid hodge-podge on the ground with all notes as to their original positions having been lost during the last years of the civil war in the mid-1970s. Mr. Royere finally finished the task in 2011.

He had just begun the restoration of the West Mebon, which is located at the center of the 8,000-by-2,100 meter West Baray reservoir, when he was diagnosed with cancer last September.

“He had a profound understanding of Khmer culture and genuinely respected our customs and habits,” said Hang Peou, a deputy director general at the Apsara Authority, the government agency in charge of the Angkor Park, who ran the West Mebon project with Mr. Royere.

“Mr. Royere always discussed matters and genuinely respected the other person’s opinion,” Mr. Peou said.

“We have not just lost an impassioned aficionado of Angkor, but especially a friend,” staff at the Unesco office in Phnom Penh said in a statement on Thursday.

“Angkor has lost one of its most competent and dedicated experts…. On a personal note, I would like to add that I lost a personal friend,” Kerya Chau Sun, the Apsara Authority’s spokesman, also wrote Friday.

A religious ceremony will be held on Sunday at 7 a.m. at Wat Svay Romiet located north of Siem Reap International Airport on the West Baray dyke. The Apsara Authority intends to hold a second ceremony later this month, Mr. Peou said.

“We can’t let our friend and colleague go like this without honoring him once more,” he added.

In 2011, Mr. Royere was awarded the Légion d’honneur, France’s highest decoration, for his work with the EFEO at Angkor. He is survived by his wife Andree Aupin-Royere and their Cambodian adopted daughter Lucie.

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