By Soy Sophea
Cambodian travel agent officers and government officials have expressed their optimism over the Hindu temple known as Preah Vihear. They foresee it becoming the most attractive historical tourist site after being included on the World Heritage Site List early next month.
Ho Vandy, President of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents (CATA), said that he was impressed with the temple as a tourist attraction and his association was ready to promote the site, not only to Cambodian people, but also to international tourists.
He said that the Hindu temple will provide a new tourism opportunity for the Royal Government of Cambodia and relevant agencies and they are looking forward to promoting the beauties of the structure to the world. “We are Cambodians, we are great nation and justly proud of our heritage, our culture and our customs,” he said.
He also predicted that after the listing of temple on the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization)’s world heritage site, there will be a significant increase in the number of visitors.
Perched on a 525-metre high cliff on the Dangrek Mountain range, Preah Vihear provided an ideal setting for a temple dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva by the past monarchs of the Brahman-influenced Khmer Empire. It is believed that construction on the temple, built in several stages starting with the Shiva sanctuary at the top and moving down the mountain side in four levels, began some time in the ninth century, well before Cambodia's spectacular Angkor Wat complex was built.
The Preah Vihear temple complex runs 800 meters along a north-south axis. The southern tip sits on a cliff top about 120 meters above its northern end and 525 meters above the Cambodian plain below. The temple has five gopuras or entrance buildings and a sanctuary that is accessible via two successive courtyards.
Ros Heng, Director of Preah Vihear Border, told the Cambodia Weekly on June 21 that he was ready to welcome all tourists to the site. He promised that simply because it is a listed construction of world significance, there will be no barriers to visitors.
He also mentioned the road from Kampong Thom province to Preah Vihear that is now under construction. “I believe,” he said. “That tourists from Cambodia and abroad will increase when construction of the road reaches completion within the next two years.”
Ho Vandy expected that the Preah Vihear temple would become the most interesting historical and natural tourism site after Angkor Wat. The latter site attracted 2 million visitors in 2007.
Nuon Mony, Archeologist and Deputy Director of the Heritage and Resort Department of the Preah Vihear National Committee, said his group has begun cleaning the site up in preparation for all of the anticipated international attention.
He said that some parts of the temple were in a bad condition, the worst parts being in danger of collapse. However, timely attention spent on these areas would prevent any further decline. He added that there were 30 personnel serving as security guards.
The Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, Minister of the Council of Ministers, left Cambodia for Quebec, Canada on Tuesday June 24, to attend a meeting of UNESCO. At this meeting, the temple is expected to be inducted formally into the World Heritage List.
Var Kimhong, Chairman of the Government Border Committee, told reporters at Phnom Penh International airport on June 24 that the meeting would also leave no doubt as to Cambodia’s ownership of the structures.
“Everything has been done,” he said. “We are simply waiting for the formalities and official announcements relating to the temple [as a world heritage site].”