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A temple in Kampong Thom province’s Sambor Prei Kuk complex
A temple in Kampong Thom province’s Sambor Prei Kuk complex, which will likely be Cambodia’s next World Heritage Site. Hong Menea

Kampong Thom temples next on UNESCO wish list

Kampong Thom’s Sambor Prei Kuk temple complex will be the next Cambodian site nominated for inclusion on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An announced yesterday at the 20th Congress of the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association (IPPA).

The seventh-century complex, which predates Angkor Wat by at least 200 years, was first submitted to UNESCO as part of a tentative list of Cambodian sites in 1992, but its inclusion on the body’s official World Heritage List has been stalled in recent years.

Government spokesman Ek Tha was unable to say yesterday what changes, if any, had been made to the management plan for Sambor Prei Kuk, but said the bid will likely be submitted “later this year, or early next year”.

“I think for Sambor Prei Kuk, I do not see any difficulty at all” in securing inclusion on the list, Tha said. “The cultural aspect is there; preservation is there; the management plan, we’re working on it.”

“I’ve been to that temple in December 1999,” he continued. “I can tell you, it’s amazing. It’s a marvellous historical temple hiding in a big jungle. I thought Angkor Wat is amazing to me, but I was thrilled to see Sambor Prei Kuk.”

According to Tha, the government hopes that inscription on the World Heritage List will help “mobilise donations” to contribute to the restoration of the temple complex and to foster the development of sustainable tourism at the site.

Cambodia already has two sites included on the UNESCO list – Angkor, which was inscribed in 1992, and Preah Vihear temple, which was inscribed in 2008.

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