Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Preah Vihear excavation starts.

Preah Vihear excavation starts.

Preah Vihear excavation starts.

ARCHAEOLOGISTS working for the Preah Vihear National Authority have begun a dig for artefacts at the site of a village that was recently cleared to make way for development at the UNESCO World Heritage site, officials said yesterday.

Om Phirom, chief of the authority’s heritage police, said the dig began on Monday after officials found stone artefacts and statues at the former site of Kor Muoy village, which was built at the bottom of the ridge on which the temple sits.

“The archaeologists are digging at the former residences of the people to search, because we suspect there are ancient things hidden under the ground,” Om Phirom said. “We have found ancient stones and two ancient Buddhist statues when we bulldozed recently.”

The relocation of the families in Kor Muoy was first announced in July 2008 when fighting first broke out near Preah Vihear temple after its listing as a World Heritage site.

Officials said at the time that the 473 families living in the village would need to move because of safety concerns, and because they wanted to develop the area into a “cultural heritage site”.

Land has been allocated to the families in a new village 30 kilometres away, named Thamacheat Samdech Techo Village (Samdech Techo Nature Village), a name that incorporates part of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s honorific.

Om Phirom said yesterday that the last of the families were moved late last month.

“The research will take about one month to finish,” Om Phirom said of the dig. “It takes this long because the digging is done by spades, not by machinery.”

Deputy provincial governor Sor Thavy said archaeologists had also recently found four separate sites of temple ruins near Preah Vihear temple, and that they were continuing to explore the surrounding area.

“We have found four old small temples. We believe the places where the archaeologists are digging have old dikes and temple ruins,” he said.

He said much of the area near Preah Vihear temple was suspected to contain land mines, and that deminers were clearing land ahead of the dig.

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