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New body to protect Koh Ker

A man looks at Preah Vihear province’s Koh Ker temple from afar in 2009. Local officials and the Apsara Authority have formed a new committee to protect the temple and its surrounds. Du Hangst
A man looks at Preah Vihear province’s Koh Ker temple from afar in 2009. Local officials and the Apsara Authority have formed a new committee to protect the temple and its surrounds. Du Hangst

New body to protect Koh Ker

Local authorities in Preah Vihear province are teaming up with the Apsara Authority to protect the 8,100 hectares of land surrounding the Koh Ker archaeological site, which they say is under threat from illegal loggers and intrusive settlers.

Sok Hay, the head of a committee to protect the area formed last month, said yesterday that the body has three functions: raising awareness; patrolling for illegal loggers; and recording all the private properties in the area. In an interview yesterday, he emphasised awareness as particularly important.

“We need to educate people about world heritage and the great wonders,” he said. However, some NGOs were skeptical about the benefits.

Lor Chann, an Adhoc coordinator in Preah Vihear, said that most logging took place between 2008 and 2012, maintaining that the forest is 70 per cent gone already.

He added that it remains to be seen if the committee has the administrative initiative to tackle the problems.

“If the committee has a strong will, I believe it can possibly be effective,” he said. “But if they don’t have the will, then they just invented the committee to make it look good.”

Apsara also wants to step up its preservation outreach around Siem Reap province, to prevent clear cutting and construction, according to Long Kosal, the authority’s spokesman.

The strategy is to form a closer partnership with monks, whose words, the authority says, carry weight in the local communities and whose Buddhist faith ties into Cambodia’s heritage.

Apsara held a meeting with monks from the province on Thursday to discuss the monks taking a greater role as community educators.“It’s very effective,” said Kosal.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY IGOR KOSSOV

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