The Kingdom on July 8 celebrated the 4th anniversary of the listing of Sambor Prei Kuk as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Sambor Prei Kuk was listed on July 8, 2017, during the 41st session of the World Heritage Committee in Krakow, Poland. It has been the third temple listed after Angkor Wat in 1992 and Preah Vihear in 2008.
The temple complex, located in Kampong Thom province, was built in the Chenla era in the early 7th century by King Isanavarman I. The area has 293 temples.
Prime Minister Hun Sen said Sambor Prei Kuk had developed into an appealing cultural tourist destination. He called on the public to protect Cambodia’s temples for future generations.
“Listing ancient temples not only makes them get international protection but also raises the profile of our cultural heritage and temples to the international stage,” he said.
Phan Nady, director-general of the Sambor Prei Kuk National Authority (SPKNA), said the event could only be commemorated virtually this year amid the ongoing outbreak of Covid-19.
“For this year’s celebration, the government cannot permit a big gathering due to Covid-19, but authorities have prepared banners around the temple resort and celebrations are held on social media,” he said.
Nady said since the temple was listed, the authority has completed many projects, including placing signposts showing directions to the temple, installing three toilets and proper eateries for tourists, and carrying out temple restoration works.
He said that during the last four years, the SPKNA had repaired temples at high risk of damage. ICC Angkor – the international coordinating mechanism for assistance provided by different countries and organisations on safeguarding the temples – provided input.
The SPKNA also prevented any construction inside the temple compound.
In addition, many workshops had been held to raise awareness among local residents on the value of the temples so people can protect them. In return, it said, they will benefit from visitors.
“A heritage site can be well preserved only when there is participation from the public, especially from the local community. If they understand its value and benefits, they will participate. If they get nothing from it, they will not care,” Nady said.
He said that before Covid-19 hit the tourism sector, the community around Sambor Prei Kuk had benefitted much from tourists. The number of visitors had increased about tenfold since it was listed. However, when Covid-19 struck, the temple found itself in the same situation as other temples across the country.