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Kingdom celebrates 14th anniversary of Preah Vihear entry into World Heritage List

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Preah Vihear Temple was listed as a World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008. Heng Chivoan

Kingdom celebrates 14th anniversary of Preah Vihear entry into World Heritage List

Prime Minister Hun Sen marked the 14th anniversary of Preah Vihear Temple being placed on the World Heritage List with a message calling on all Cambodians to join with the government to preserve the site.

“Today marks the 14th anniversary of Preah Vihear Temple making the World Heritage List back on July 7, 2008. We looked upon the event as an important milestone because we reclaimed our rights to this sacred temple, which we had won through a lawsuit against Thailand at the International Court of Justice [ICJ] in The Hague on June 15, 1962,” Hun Sen said in a social media post.

He recalled that the temple, situated in the remote Dangrek Mountains, was placed on the World Heritage List in the 32nd round of selections made by UNESCO at a meeting in Quebec, Canada, on July 7, 2008.

Sambo Manara, a Cambodian history professor, said the message is important to show that Cambodia’s leaders place great value on the nation’s cultural heritage and demonstrate their achievements and ability to bring the community together with shared identity and purpose.

“If we’re going to talk about what the victory in court was worth over the past 13 years, then we have to ask ourselves what our entire history is really worth to us and the answer is that it’s priceless. Preah Vihear Temple is also therefore priceless, which is an appraisal that Thailand apparently agreed with.

“Now that it is universally recognised as ours again, celebrating our victory after the many years of conflict regarding control over the temple is a matter of our national honour,” he said.

Kong Puthika, director-general of the National Authority for Preah Vihear (NAPV), said that roughly 2,600 people attended the celebrations on July 6.

He noted that when the World Heritage Committee listed Preah Vihear, it also required that the NAPV protect the forested areas around the temple so the true value of heritage site lies not just in the temple, but also in the natural resources, forests and local community.

He added that after the temple’s listing in 2008, the government allowed the NAPV to protect and conserve certain areas and to restore the East Baray and West Baray – artificial reservoir ponds built long ago by the Khmer Empire to assist with irrigation and settlement of key locations within its territory.

“We restored them to add value to Preah Vihear Temple and we have also renovated the temple besides that. Our authority has repaired some parts of the structure and reinforced some parts that were high-risk,” he said.

“We have also built concrete roads leading to the temple through the Bayon Foundation under the leadership of Hun Mana in order to facilitate the conservation work and protect our territorial integrity,” he said, referring to the director-general of Bayon Radio and Television.

He continued that through the efforts of the International Coordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of Preah Vihear (ICC-Preah Vihear), more than $400,000 had been raised since 2008 to conserve the temple.

“India – which is a member of the ICC – proposed a $5.5 million project to further repair the temple and we’ve also considered implementing further protections for the surrounding forest for the next 14 years. We’ve already gone ahead with reforesting the temple site by planting more than 70,000 trees within the conservation area,” Puthika said.

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