In a rare acknowledgement of deforestation concerns, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, chairman of the National Commission for UNESCO, said the widespread clearing of forests around Angkor Wat was harming views of the historic temple complex.
Sok An made the remarks in Siem Reap at a Plenary Session of the International Co-ordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor (ICC-Angkor) on Wednesday, and stressed that the forest, known as Phnom Kulen, was degraded and needed immediate attention.
“I’ve known that Phnom Kulen is endangered now, thus this plateau region needs urgent protection,” he said, calling for a halt to all forest clearing which “affects our view of our national park”.
Sok An also called on Siem Reap provincial governor Sou Phirin to co-operate with the APSARA Authority and UNESCO to protect the national park.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said that the Phnom Kulen issue was on the government’s radar.
“In the meeting, we’re paying attention to Phnom Kulen,” he said. “It’s becoming an endangered place.”
According to Siphan, talks are ongoing about problems posed by both flooding and groundwater fluctuations, which are thought to be causing some temples to sink, which in turn causes structural damage.
“We are still discussing surface water, and we have to make sure that there’s no flooding in the temples and Siem Reap city,” he said.
In September the Italian government donated $200,000 to repair an embankment and stairway in the temple’s moat that were damaged by floods.
Angkor marks its 20th year on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites this year, but, due to the national mourning for King Father Norodom Sihanouk, who played a key role in Angkor’s addition to the list, anniversary celebrations will be postponed until the World Heritage Committee meeting in June.
To contact the reporter on this story: Thik Kaliyann at firstname.lastname@example.org