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Preah Vihear’s ancient Koh Ker temple seeks World Heritage Status

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A visitor takes picture in front of Koh Ker temple. The Cambodian government is preparing a proposal to register the 10th century temple complex as a Unesco World Heritage Site. Post Staff

Preah Vihear’s ancient Koh Ker temple seeks World Heritage Status

The Cambodian government is preparing a proposal to register the ancient Koh Ker temple in Preah Vihear province as a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona made the announcement last week at a meeting in Siem Reap province, of the International Coordinating Committee for Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Preah Vihear.

The Koh Ker site constitutes “one of the marvels of Cambodian monumental heritage,” according to Unesco. Sackona said efforts to register Koh Ker might be aided by the inclusion of Sambor Prei Kuk archaeological complex, which was listed as a World Heritage Site last year.

“My team has started this process. In fact, submitting the proposals is not easy. It takes four years, which includes investigating and reviewing documents in French. Many countries have submitted their proposals and conditions have become more difficult,” she said.

Prak Sovannara, the general director of the heritage department at the ministry, said since 1992, Cambodia has submitted eight temples and historical sites for tentative Unesco listing.

He said after being placed on the tentative list, more evidence and documents must be prepared to be listed as a World Heritage Site.

“We have sites on Unesco’s tentative lists. However, we have never sent proper documents for them to recognise our temples,” he said.

‘Intangible heritage’

Koh Ker temple is in Srayong commune, Kulen district, Preah Vihear province, about 120km from Siem Reap.

Experts believe it was built during the reign of King Jayavarman IV (928-944) to serve as the capital city of the Khmer Empire. In 944, according to Unesco, Koh Ker was abandoned when King Rajendravarman moved his capital to today’s Angkor.

The ministry said the Koh Ker complex currently consists of 86 monuments, although new temples may be discovered.

Cambodia has three World Heritage Sites. They are Angkor which was listed in 1992, Preah Vihear Temple (2008 and the Temple Zone of Sambor Kuk, Archeological Site of Ancient Ishanapura (2017).

It also has four areas of culture that are considered intangible cultural heritage.

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