The largest seated Buddha in Cambodia, one of the world’s tallest statues, is destined to become a destination for Bhuddhist pilgrims and tourists from all over the world, say its sponsors.
The huge statue, in the area of Veal Sre 500, in Boeung Touk commune of Kampot province’s Bokor town, will sit on the peak of Bokor Mountain in Preah Monivong Bokor National Park.
The groundbreaking ceremony for the 108m-high statue was presided over by Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction Chea Sophara.
“Sokha Hotel Group has taken the initiative to build the statue on the ridge of Bokor Mountain as a shrine for Buddhists to worship at and dedicate themselves to everlasting peace and prosperity for the Kingdom and the people,” said its vice-president Sok Chantha.
The local conglomerate is currently preparing a master plan for the massive $30 million project.
“The tourism potential of this project is enormous, not just within the country but globally. In the future, this Buddha will become a part of Khmer cultural and religious heritage for generations and will be among the most sacred shrines for Buddhists,” she added.
Chantha, who represents her father Sok Kong – founder and chairman of Sokimex, the parent company of Sokha Hotel Group – described the form and style of the statue.
“It will be the tallest Buddha statue in Cambodia as well as one of the tallest in the world. It will be a seated Maravijaya Buddha and is based on designs from Bayon Temple, which is an example of the top style of Buddha in the Jayavarman VII era of the 13th century.
Located on the top of Bokor, at an altitude of about 1,000m above sea level, the statue will be made of gold-painted reinforced concrete, and will face to the East.
“The 108m height represents the 108 blessings of the Buddha. It will be seated on a lotus throne, which represents the evolution of his life cycle. The design of the throne follows the pattern of a part of the diamond pillars at Damrei Krab Temple of Phnom Kulen, built during the reign of Jayavarman II in the 9th century,” said Chantha.
The base will be 248m by 186m with four sets of stairs, protected by handrails sculpted like dragons. The four staircases represent the four points of the compass and are based on the style of Angkor Wat, built during the reign of Suryavarman II in the 12th century.
The first floor will feature a covered platform in front of the Buddha, which will be used for religious ceremonies. There will be seven Buddha statues and five followers – a total of 12, for the 12 months and 12 animals of the zodiac – surrounding the statue. There will be eight staircases to the platform, which represent the eight directions and the Noble Eightfold Path.
The interior of the shrine will feature small Buddha statues on the walls, a place for religious gatherings, a museum, a hall for the Pali Canon scriptures and a place for Vipassana.
Minister Sophara recalled the history of the national park. Noted for its fresh air and beautiful mountain scenery, the park became a pop ular place for the royal family to vacation in the early 20th century.
The national park was abandoned during the 1940s, but after the Kingdom gained independence from Fance, the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk began to rebuild the mountain’s infrastructure. The new town was inaugurated in early 1962.
“In 2019, through the Bokor Development Project, the government approved a master plan to ensure the effective, high-quality, sustainable management and development of Bokor town through effective governance,” said Sophara.
“All construction must comply with approved standards and regulations, which ensure sustainability and care for the environment. This statue will become a major drawcard for tourists from around the world,” he added.
Chantha said the project is led by a team of Cambodian architects.
“The statue will be built by Sokha Real Estate, a licensed local conglomerate. We will use local specialists, although we will employ foreign experts when necessary,” she added.
The project will be supervised by an inter-ministerial working group, led by the Ministry of Environment, to ensure it follows Khmer style and design in accordance with traditional customs and the legal documents which govern the government policy of “keep the old and create new in the era of Techo with peace and development in all areas”.
Environment ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra will head the working group, with input from the ministries of land management; cults and religion; culture and fine arts; tourism; and the Kampot Provincial Administration. They will strive to closely adhere to the proposed blueprints.
It will take four years to complete the statue, which has been approved by the Sangha Council.
“A technical team will monitor the project from start to finish. The inter-ministerial and construction teams will inspect the quality of construction, while the culture and religion ministries will examine its design. The master plan is one thing – following it is another. This is why we must keep a close eye on its progress,” Pheakdra told The Post.
He acknowledged that as the first of its size in the Kingdom, it has to be meticulously designed.
“The inter-ministerial group will have to closely monitor the quality of the construction. Because this is a coastal area, construction techniques will need to adapt to the environment,” he added.
Sokha Hotel Group has been developing the national park since the beginning of 2008, building infrastructure from the foot of the mountain to the ridge, including roads and an electricity and water supply.
The company has built a number of hotels, resorts, residences and service buildings – including agriculture and livestock farming – on 41,000ha of the 154,458ha national park, which spans three provinces: Kampot, Preah Sihanouk and Kampong Speu.