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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - No-logging zone to protect ancient Siem Reap temples

No-logging zone to protect ancient Siem Reap temples

Siem Reap Province
FIVE centuries-old temples damaged by the forest-clearing activities of a Siem Reap province rubber company may be spared further harm now that the company has agreed to a protective zone on the land concession, officials said Sunday.

Sik Bunsin, Svay Leu district governor, said the owners of the Kreb rubber company, Apsara Authority staff and local officials had just concluded the demarcation of an off-limits area around the temples that will prevent further damage as the company clears the forests on its land to make way for rubber trees.

“The company cooperated with the authorities before clearing any further because they are afraid of damaging our ancient artefacts,” Sik Bunsin said, adding that out of the five temples, only Prasat Sangke Singh, located on about a hectare of land, is still in good condition.

The remaining temples were discovered in 2007 when the company attempted to flatten several hills on its land, exposing troves of artefacts below and inadvertently destroying one site entirely. “Now we are planning the construction of a road to the temples in order to establish a tourism site,” Sik Bunsin said.

Uch Horn, Svay Leu commune chief, saw court officials and Apsara Authority staff members on their way to survey the sites. “I am happy to see them visit the temples,” he said. “I want higher officials to create a protected area here in order to protect all of its from the destructive effects of land clearance because there are many temples scattered throughout the area.”

Bun Tharith, director general of the Apsara Authority, said that Apsara officials had replaced provisional wooden demarcation poles with cement poles that would better deter land-clearing machinery. The poles were placed 50 to 60 metres out from the moat around each of the temples.

“We want to build a road to these temples and open up the site, but there is the difficulty of the forest as well as the demands of Apsara’s other projects,” he said. “But the first priority is to guarantee that the sites are not violated.”

After villagers familiar with the temple sites complained to Apsara about the rubber company’s activities, Nuon San, general prosecutor for Siem Reap and Banteay Meanchey provinces, trekked 6 to 7 kilometres through the forest on December 21 to examine the conditions of Prasat Sangke Singh and Prasat Ahen. “I urge the government officials and NGOs who work to preserve the temples to please go to see them. I was so saddened to see that these temples were abandoned,” he said.

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