siem reap town – After several days of increasing public concern and attention over lighting being installed at Angkor Wat, Unesco gave a positive recommendation to the project Wednesday, on the condition that it is conducted in close cooperation with its International Coordinating Committee for Angkor.
The ICC, which advises government body the Apsara Authority on management of the World Heritage Site, issued a recommendation at its 18th technical session Wednesday evening advising the authority to limit illumination to the entranceway to the temple and its bas-relief gallery on the north side.
“We have to abide by the recommendation, but the decision is still from the Apsara Authority, as sovereignty from Cambodia,” Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said, adding that the lighting project was still in a study phase.
Local press and opposition officials questioned the scheme, which includes the installation of lights near the ceiling of the northern gallery of the temple. Some speculated that holes were drilled into the sandstone walls of the temple to affix the lights, but the Apsara Authority said that only existing holes that once held wooden support beams were being used.
Unesco Country Represent-
ative Teruo Jinnai denied that a test setup of the lights had damaged the temple. “There was no direct damage and all the holes were made a long time ago,” he said Wednesday.
Earlier Wednesday, Ros Borath, deputy director-general of the Apsara Authority, and Phay Siphan explained the proposed project at a news conference Mr Borath said his organization had conducted a study into illuminating Angkor Wat that concluded that light-emitting diode, or LED, lamps would be most suited to the project.
“The LED lights emit no heat; that’s why we see no problem with using these lights,” he said. Mr Siphan added that according to experts, “LED’s emit less heat than moonlight.”
Lighting up Angkor Wat enables tourists to visit the temple at night and is one of several initiatives being developed by the Ministry of Tourism to attract more visitors, particularly as the tourist sector feels the pinch of the global economic crisis, Minister of Tourism Thong Khon said Wednesday afternoon. Set-
ting up lights is not an issue, Mr Khon said. “The problem we need to focus on is how we can attract more tourists.”
Var Chouda, owner of Sou Jhin company, which is handling the illumination of the temple, said he had already invested $12 million in the project, as he strongly believed in the government as-
surances that the project would go ahead. He added that his company signed a 30-year contract to operate the lights at Angkor Wat.
“I hope we will attract more visitor to visit at nighttime,” he said, adding he had learned that similar lighting projects at other World Heritage Sites had significantly boosted tourist numbers at those monuments.