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Old battlefield to welcome thousands for New Year

Old battlefield to welcome thousands for New Year

090324_05.jpg
090324_05.jpg

Ta Moan Thom Temple opened up by new road, border stability.

Photo by:
AFP 

A tourist smiles at a soldier stationed at Preah Vihear temple in July last year.

HUNDREDS of tourists have flocked to Ta Moan Thom temple in Oddar Meanchey province ahead of the Khmer New Year, following the completion of a new road to improve access to the remote border province.

The area around the small temple, which was drawn into the Preah Vihear conflict last year, continues to be a source of tension between Thai and Cambodian troops. Last month, Thai shells landed on the Cambodian side of the border.

Despite this, Neak Vong, deputy commander of Brigade 42 based at Ta Moan Thom, told the Post that more than 600 people visited the temple on Sunday.

"We are seeing that many tourists are coming to visit Ta Moan Thom temple, and they are giving encouragement to our soldiers," Neak Vong said.

"Ta Moan Thom is changing from a place accustomed  to armed conflict to one that serves tourists. It is no longer a battlefield."

Kao Houn, governor of Ampil district, where the temple stands, said that between 30,000 and 50,000 Cambodians visited the temple last Khmer New Year. But he said visits dried up later in 2008 as armed tensions grew following the listing of Preah Vihear Temple as a UNESCO World Hertiage site in July.

But now, tensions have eased and the final 9-kilometre stretch of road connecting the temple to Rom Chong village - which is linked into the provincial infrastructure -  is complete.

"From now on, we will have tourists visiting the site every day, but the military commanders are asking them to come just twice a week to the temple itself, since they [still] need to provide security for the people amid the tensions between the two sides," he said.

Kao Houn added that he had asked the provincial governor to authorise the building, about a kilometre from the temple, of a village for the military and a new market for the tourists.

"Many thousands of people will visit the temple over the New Year. We will make sure they are safe," he said.

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