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Preah Vihear temple claims are ‘fake news’

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The National Authority for Preah Vihear denied an online report about vandalism of bas-reliefs at Preah Vihear temple. Photo supplied

Preah Vihear temple claims are ‘fake news’

The National Authority for Preah Vihear on Tuesday issued a statement condemning a website article that suggested images of female Apsara spirits on bas-reliefs in the temple had recently been vandalised by “bad individuals” as “fake news”.

Pictures of damaged temple bas-reliefs had been published on the “KH News 360” website since January 9, but they were shared by Facebook users again over recent days, angering authorities.

“Everything is [disappearing]! No one opens their eyes to look at them. Why are [the vandals’] hands so damned harmful?” the article said.

It said some “bad individuals” had recently used an electric stone cutter to damage the Apsara images, destroying ancient bas-reliefs on walls of the temple.

“This looks unbelievable, and it is really sad that what our ancestors had so carefully crafted has been ruined by these people,” the article said.

Seven pictures of Apasara images were published with the article. Some had been largely destroyed, while others had been completely removed from the walls.

The author did not give the name or location of the temple, but the article carried a dateline saying “From Preah Vihear Temple”.

The Post could not reach the website’s owner for comment on Wednesday.

“This is fake news with the characteristics of incitement that has triggered anger among the public, caused turmoil in society and discredited the authorities who are working on the control, protection and prevention of the theft and smuggling of national treasures."

“The National Authority for Preah Vihear utterly condemns the individuals who published this fake news and calls on them to make corrections and issue a public apology,” the National Authority for Preah Vihear’s statement said.

It said that since Preah Vihear Temple was listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2008, the temple has been well protected by the National Authority for Preah Vihear in cooperation with heritage protection and tourist police.

The National Authority for Preah Vihear could not be reached for further comment.

Long Kosal, spokesperson for the Apsara National Authority that manages the Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap province, on Wednesday said he had consulted with experts to discover the origin of the images in the article.

They found that the pictures were of bas-reliefs at the less well-known Bakan Kampong Svay Temple in Preah Vihear province and not Preah Vihear Temple, he said.

“The destruction shown on the images did not happen recently. It occurred sometime between 1993 and 1998. Parts of the bas-reliefs which were destroyed have been preserved at the Angkor Conservation compound in Siem Reap province,” Kosal said.

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