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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Temple may be heritage site

Sambor Prei Kuk temple, seen here in 2011, is being put forth for consideration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Sambor Prei Kuk temple, seen here in 2011, is being put forth for consideration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. DON WEINLAND

Temple may be heritage site

Sambor Prei Kuk, the seventh-century temple of the pre-Angkorian Chenla Kingdom built by Isanavarman I, is to be submitted for consideration as a World Heritage Site to UNESCO.

The announcement came yesterday at a seminar on research and conservation on the temple complex, the most important religious centre of the pre-Angkorian era and now located in a quiet patch of forest in Kampong Thom province.

According to Minister of Culture Phoeurng Sackona, up to 80 per cent of the documents for the proposal have already been prepared and will be finished soon.

“The documents will be completed by the end of 2014 and hopefully will be sent to UNESCO in Paris,” she said. “It’s expected to be listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in the future.”

The Ministry of Culture first conducted research on the temples in 1998 and work on a conservation plan was started in 2001 in collaboration with Japan’s Waseda University, an effort that will continue until 2017, said Prak Sonnara, director-general of cultural heritage at the ministry.

“Currently, about 13 clay temples have been repaired,” Sonnara said.

“They emerge from the jungle with people living in them. So at this site, nature, temples and people live together,” he said. “It has outstanding, universal value.”

Japan helped to draw up a master plan of the temples, ranking them according to which ones were prone to collapse and researching the lifestyle of the people living there, Sonnara added.

Ut Sam Orn, Kampong Thom provincial governor, said having Sambor Prei Kuk as a World Heritage Site would “help the temples’ worsening condition and facilitate locals’ livelihoods when more tourists come to visit”.

Sam Orn also added that currently more than 1,000 tourists visit the temples each month.

Cambodia currently has the temples at Angkor Wat and Preah Vihear listed as World Heritage Sites. The Royal Ballet of Cambodia and Khmer shadow theatre are also listed as intangible cultural heritage.

Banteay Chhmar Temple, Champei music, Khmer silk and Khol Drama are also planned to be listed with UNESCO in the future, Sackona said.

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