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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Reconstructing what time and man have ruined

Reconstructing what time and man have ruined

Restoration of an ancient temple near Phnom Penh to its pre-Angkorean splendor

has begun, and the government hopes it will spark similar renewal projects

across the country.

Preah Thiet, which was built in the 7th and 8th

centuries, has little more than its base left. It has over the years been

brought low by both man and time. The organizer of the rebuilding effort wants

to awake Cambodia's younger generation to the greatness of the time of

Angkor.

Teng Someth, initiator of the project and chairman of the Charity

Commission for the Preah Thiet Religious Building (CCPR), said reconstruction

would start next dry season and would finish in 2005, provided that sufficient

funds were made available.

"I love our culture and our temples," he said

when asked about his motivation. "My idea is to re-awaken our Khmer

people."

The temple is 20 kilometers south-west of the capital near

National Route 2 in Kandal Stung district, Kandal province. A billboard on the

main road announces the project to passing motorists. At the site itself, a

temporary roof in pagoda style has been erected to protect the remains: the

foundation, the stupa and a statue of the Buddha.

A report drawn up by

Someth estimates the project will cost $850,000. Around 80 percent of that sum

will be used on re-building the temple itself, with the rest targeted to

developing the site and improving access. A Buddhist library is also

planned.

Someth told the Post that donations from Cambodian people had so

far amounted to $5,000, but said that donations of building materials were also

important. King Norodom Sihanouk has given $2,000 towards the

project.

The CCPR has sent documents and the development plan to

expatriate Cambodians asking them to donate as well.

Uong Von, director

of the heritage department at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, supports

Someth's idea.

"It is important to build new temples and re-build the old

ones," he said. "It will show Cambodian people the links to [earlier times]. If

we start by building one temple, Khmer people will start to build

others."

Von said that the last time Cambodians had built temples for the

next generation was in the 14th century. He hoped that the actions of his

department and the ministry would encourage the building of more this

century.

"We will support people who have ideas to rebuild temples and we

will help them with technical assistance," he said.

Preah Thiet temple

will be rebuilt to its original plan. The bricks used will be of the same size

and quality as those used in the Funan and Chenla eras and are already being

fired in Kampong Thom province.

Sandstone for the faces of Ta Prom, that

used to face out from the tower, will come from Kulen mountain. Von said that

strict adherence to the original style and materials will allow the new temple

to last thousands of years.

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