Apsara Authority has announced plans to close the rediscovered Kbal Spean monument site near Angkor Wat this month to ensure it will remain garbage- and mine-free.
The riverbed site—isolated by dense deciduous forest about 20 km north of Bantey Srey temple—remained relatively unknown until it was rediscovered in 1968. But looters and a few intrepid tourists have begun to visit more frequently in recent years.
Though it has been thoroughly checked for mines, Apsara has asked the Cambodian Mine Action Center to give it one more lookover and, in the process, clear out some of the unsightly underbrush that may intimidate tourists, according to Ang Choulean, director of the culture and monument department at Apsara.
The authority also plans to widen the jungle road leading to the temple and add extra security to prevent looters from stealing some of the many riverbed reliefs at the site.
The work should be finished by Sept 20, Ang Choulean said.
The reliefs, carved on the riverbed of flat rock and along the river’s edge, date from as far back as the 9th century. Most depict Hindu gods and phallic symbols. It takes a 30-minute moto-taxi ride from the Banteay Srei temple coupled with a 45-minute walk through the jungle to get there. Its isolated location could make it an attractive eco-tourism site as well as a cultural one, Ang Choulean said.
The authority expects to promote the carving site to foreign and local tourists alike, and has launched a publicity campaign announcing the demining efforts. Similar projects are under way at several of the lesser-known temples in Siem Reap.
No one has been injured by land mines in the Kbal Spean area, said Suy Sann, second deputy governor for Siem Reap. “We want to tell the tourists that this [site] is safe to visit after CMAC double-checks it one more time.”