The National Authority for Preah Vihear (NAPV) will cooperate with the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) to begin a joint operation to clear mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) in two areas located in the Koh Ker temple complex in Preah Vihear province.

The areas have been identified as irrigation systems from ancient times that connected to temples in Laos.

On September 2, NAPV deputy director-general in charge of Koh Ker temple complex Pheng Samoeun led a working group of CMAC and specialist officials to inspect the sites and request clearance of mines and UXO there.

NAPV said the priority location for demining is Ta Men Temple, which covers an area of 4.67ha in the north of the temple complex.

The other location is in the first and second protected areas of the complex and covers an area of 57.25ha. NAPV has requested that this area be cleared in a short period of time as there is temple conservation, protection and research activities there and it is for tourism development.

Citing CMAC’s survey and mapping of the temple complex, NAPV director-general Kong Puthikar said about 200ha of land will need to be cleared of mines and UXO.

NAPV and CMAC are continuing discussions to identify priority areas to start clearing operations soon.

“The remaining landmines are on the north side of the temple complex. We do not allow tourists to enter the area because we have just expanded restoration work to that place and set up a conservation system to protect artefacts in the ancient area,” he said.

“Once we finish our work then tourists can visit. The area has an ancient dam with an irrigation system that connects to Ta Men temple, Angkor Road, Koh Ker temple and to Wat Phu in Laos,” he said.

According to Puthikar, the entire Koh Ker temple complex covers an area of 8,789ha. He expects that areas opened up for restoration work will soon be cleared of mines and UXO so that conservation work and research can continue, especially to provide opportunities for tourists to visit.