The temple at Preah Vihear, one of Cambodia’s most-prized national treasures, is at such risk of severe and irreparable damage that it could vanish completely, preservation watchdog the Global Heritage Fund said over the weekend.
Due to the impact of war and conflict, unsustainable tourism and natural disasters, the “picturesque masterpiece of Khmer architecture”, as it has been described by UNESCO, could be totally destroyed, the fund said in a report released this month to coincide with a global heritage forum over the weekend.
“The temple’s location atop a steep cliff leaves it vulnerable to the rigors of a mountain climate, further exacerbated by monsoon conditions,” the report states.
Further, the failure of Cambodia and Thailand to resolve their dispute over the land surrounding Preah Vihear is a man-made threat accelerating damage to the 11th-century temple, GHF said in their study.
During military skirmishes in 2011, the temple itself was in the direct line of fire and sustained damage from shellfire during exchanges with Thai troops.
“As of March, […] neither Thai nor Cambodian troops have withdrawn, leaving the atmosphere around the temple no less volatile,” the report states.
Minister for Tourism Thong Khon said he could not respond to questions because he was in Kampong Thom province.
Tan Theay, secretary-general of the National Committee for UNESCO, could not be reached for comment.