Hundreds of Buddhist temples nationwide are to be repaired and renovated by the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, with the work funded by the national budget. A workshop for the purpose is being held to ensure proper maintenance of the structures.
In the workshop titled “Construction of Ancient Temples: Risks and Preservation”, hosted on Thursday and Friday by the Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Cult and Religion at the Chaktomuk Conference Hall, monks, pagoda committees and followers of Buddhism were encouraged “to preserve and value the heritage of our ancestors”.
Chuch Phoeun, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture, said the workshop informed pagoda committees to notify authorities and officials from the relevant ministries when they see that a temple is in need of repair.
“The government has allocated a budget to support temple resotrations, but the money must be spent wisely,” Phoeun said.
According to a survey by the Ministry of Cult and Religion, there are approximately 4,932 pagodas, including 563 ancient temples, throughout Cambodia. There are also 68,654 monks.
“What is interesting and beautiful is that ancient temples were built with highly priced wood and decorated exquisitely,” Phoeun said.
He said most of the wooden temples are located in Battambang, Kampong Cham and Kratie provinces and were built during the 1800s.
Neang Mork, 65, who heads the Svay Sach Phnom pagoda committee in Kampong Cham province’s Srey Santhor district, said that for years, many Buddhist followers and locals had wanted to restore the temple. But others wanted to demolish it and construct a new one.
“However, I don’t agree. Some conflicts occurred over what to do. There was intervention from the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts which sent experts to study and help with the restoration,” he said.
Mork said the temple had already been fully restored to a high standard and in the original style, with wooden art, pictures and colours in the temple being restored.
He said during the restoration, local Buddhists worked with experts, but he was unaware of the cost at the time. However, when visiting the temple, Ministry of Culture spokesperson Thai Norak Sathya told them the government had spent 300 million riel ($75,000) on the restoration works.
When contacted on Thursday, Sathya could not recall the matter.
Prak Sonnara, general director of the Heritage Department at the Ministry of Culture, said that more than three years ago, the ministry had begun restoring temples to preserve all old ones that “faced losing their ancient beauty”.
“In the past, we renovated three ancient temples, of which two were located in Kampong Cham province,” he said.
The Mahaleap and Svay Sach Phnom pagodas in Kampong Cham, along with the Chen Domdek pagoda, located near the Chroy Changvar Bridge in Phnom Penh, have already been restored, he said.
“Some restorations take only three to six months, while others much longer. It depends on the condition of each temple and the geography of each pagoda,” Sonnara added.
For example, he said, the ongoing restoration of the Pov Veuy temple, in Kampong Thom province, began last year.
“Our team has faced many difficulties such as in access to the pagoda and transporting equipment,” he said.