Twenty-six year old legal officer wrote the book in his spare time in a bid to educate his countrymen about the history of the temple
Taing Ratana inspects the book he wrote detailing the history of the Preah Vihear temple.
N light of the current military standoff over Preah Vihear temple, Taing Ratana, a 26-year-old legal officer for the secretariat of the Constitutional Council and part-time author, could be forgiven for expecting better-than-average sales for his first book.
Bes Dong Phnom Dang Rek (The Heart of the Dang Rek Mountains), which is to be published next month, is a novel-cum-history book which sets out the recent history of the hotly contested ancient Hindu temple, including a fictionalised account of the international lawsuit that resulted in Cambodia's sovereignty over the temple being recognised in 1962.
"Most Khmer people don't want to read about history," said Taing Ratana. "If I wrote a history book, people would be less interested. So I changed it into an historical novel [that] details the genesis of the lawsuit until success at the Hague in June 1962."
Newspaper sales are currently up across the Kingdom as Cambodians eagerly follow events on the Preah Vihear frontline but the author says the idea for the book arose in 2001 while he was a first-year law student and became interested in the history of the temple. He began writing the book in February 2002 and completed it in June 2004.
After the anti-Thai riots in 2003, Taing Ratana decided not to seek a publisher for his manuscript because "I didn't want to change history, I didn't want myself, by writing the book, to trouble history, and I didn't want readers to be angry with other nations after reading it".
Most Khmer people don’t want to read about history.
"I just want readers to learn something and love our ancient culture," he said.
With UNESCO's recent listing of Preah Vihear as a World Heritage Site, however, his friends began encouraging him to publish the work, which begins with the 1954 conflict between Cambodia and Thailand and the legal machinations that followed in the International Court of Justice in the Hague.
"I want all Cambodians and the younger generation to know in more detail about the Preah Vihear lawsuit and what went on during that time," he said, adding that he planned to donate most of the first edition of 1,000 copies to libraries and schools.
Khmer Writers Association vice chairman You Bo said that the novel was a very interesting book, with meaning and structure that makes the reader want to continue to turn pages.