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Let there be light at Angkor

One of the controversial new lights sits inside a crevice in Angkor
One of the controversial new lights sits inside a crevice in Angkor Wat. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Govt sues KCF President Moeung Sonn for claiming light installations damaged Angkor Wat, says effects of new lights carefully studied by experts

THE Cambodian government sued Moeung Sonn, the president of the Khmer Civilisation Foundation (KCF), for false information and inciting the public on Tuesday for his comments about new light fixtures at Angkor Wat.

Moeung Sonn told the Post last week that workers installing new lights at the 12th-century temple had drilled holes deep into the structure's walls.

Recent photos of Angkor show lights placed in recesses at regular intervals, worrying visitors that the nooks had been carved out specifically for the devices.

But the government and the Apsara Authority have rejected claims that damage was done to Angkor Wat during the installation, saying the lights were placed in pre-existing holes.

"The accusations of people that the light fittings were carved into the wall of Angkor are just not true," Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, told the Post on Thursday.

"Moeung Sonn is crazy," he added. "He doesn't understand the lighting technique. ... Why doesn't he believe the experts?"

The KCF president defended himself, saying he was not to blame for spreading false information, and that he was only a concerned citizen trying to protect Angkor Wat.

"If the government really wants to sue me about that, please sue the reporters who printed the story about lights at Angkor Wat before me and Apsara Authority officials for not giving advance notice to the people about the lights at Angkor Wat," he said.

"And if the trial starts, let it be done by international courts because Angkor Wat is a World Heritage site," Moeung Sonn added.

According to Phay Siphan, UNESCO voiced no objections to the Apsara Authority's new lights, which will allow visitors to stroll around the temples after sunset.

"UNESCO approved of the Cambodian government's actions and encouraged the Apsara Authority to continue to work with [French lighting specialist] Ahmed Bennis ... to organise the night lighting at Angkor," Phay Siphan said.

The World Heritage site is being fitted with LEDs that do not emit heat, eliminating the possibility they will harm the temple, the Apsara Authority said Wednesday on the final day of a meeting of the International Coordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor.

Ros Barath, the deputy director-general of the Apsara Authority, said the decision to install the LEDs came after the results of an international study on the effects of heat on the temple, which found that extreme temperatures could harm the building's structural integrity.

Sou Ching, the electrical company installing the lights, declined to comment.

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