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Letter: Change guard at Angkor

As a westerner who frequently and happily visits Cambodia, please allow me to

express my grave concern at the pillaging of the Angkor temples at Siem Reap and

other places.

It is my policy never to interfere in internal Cambodian

affairs, but here much more is at stake.

To me, visiting these temples,

which I consider one of mankind's greatest achievements in art and culture, is a

constant source of joy. However, this time coming to Cambodia I learn that the

lotus pedestal with Buddha footprints from Neak Pean's eastern tower has


This is also true of two priceless Apsara heads from Ta

Prohm. Recently, your own paper published the tragic story of the dismantling of

Banteay Chmar.

These are just a few examples that have come to my

knowledge - among countless others, I am sure.

I know that many

Cambodians share with me a deep sense of sadness and frustration about this loss

of Cambodian and world heritage.

I hope that His Majesty King Norodom

Sihanouk's appeal to the so-called "donor countries" for aid to safeguard the

temples does not go unanswered.

Meanwhile, let me present a model of how

a future structure to better protect the temples might look.

I believe

that a drastic but necessary counter-measure to further pillaging of the temple

area at Siem Reap would be a complete dissolution of the special police force on

duty there.

Any organization replacing it would have to have an

international "head" of highly skilled and motivated security


Any Cambodian staff on patrol around the temples should be

replaced at frequent intervals, not exceeding 12 months.

Possibly the

recruitment of the guards could favor ex-KR hardliners, whom I believe to be

less exposed to the national epidemic: corruption.

To further minimize

this risk the staff should be paid a decent salary and be properly prepared for

their duties, including the creation of a consciousness about the value and

importance of their mission.

There is a sort of parallel between the

Republic of Cambodia and the present-day situation. In the early seventies,

everyone seemed to know that Lon Nol's side was losing, and for that reason

everyone went berserk in corruption.

Today there is a vacuum left over

from the war and the Khmer Rouge influence which, until it is filled by a

normalized, civilized mentality, is creating a true haven for the most anarchic

sides of the Khmer spirit. I believe that we all have a moral duty to do our

best to counter it.

Thomas Weber Carlsen, of Trige Parkvej,


Last Home Guesthouse, Phnom Penh



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