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China plays vital role in restoring Cambodian UNESCO site

Chinese experts will help to restore the Temple of Preah Vihear in Cambodia's Preah Vihear province. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

PHNOM PENH-China has been playing a crucial role in safeguarding and developing the UNESCO-listed Preah Vihear Temple in northern Cambodia, Cambodian officials said recently.

Preah Vihear, a Hindu temple, is situated on the top of a 525-meter cliff in the Dangrek Mountains in Preah Vihear province, about 400 kilometers north of the capital Phnom Penh, and 200 km northwest of the famed Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap province.

Preah Vihear, a Hindu temple, is situated on the top of a 525-meter cliff in the Dangrek Mountains in Preah Vihear province, about 400 kilometers north of the capital Phnom Penh, and 200 km northwest of the famed Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap province

The 11th-century temple was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in July 2008.

Kong Puthikar, director-general of the National Authority for Preah Vihear, says China is the co-chair of the International Coordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and the Development of Preah Vihear with India.

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Established in 2014, the ICC-Preah Vihear is the international mechanism for coordinating all assistance extended by different countries and organizations for preserving and developing Preah Vihear.

"This is an important role in assisting the Cambodian government in safeguarding the Temple of Preah Vihear, a world heritage site," Puthikar says.

"In its role as the co-chair, China has pledged to conserve and restore Gopura I, Gopura II and Gopura III(there are five gopuras at Preah Vihear temple)," he says.

A gopura is the entrance gateway into the temple.

He says China has sent its technical team to study and assess the risks and structure of the three gopuras already. However, the actual work has not yet started due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We believe that with the accumulated experience of working with the world heritage sites in China, the Chinese experts will be well positioned to help restore the Temple of Preah Vihear in the near future," Puthikar says.

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Ea Darith, director of the National Authority for Preah Vihear's department of conservation and archaeology, says that prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Chinese archaeologists visited the temple to conduct a conservation study and to assess the extent of the restoration work required.

"China is a very important partner in conserving and restoring the ruined Preah Vihear Temple," Darith says.

"I'd like to propose that Chinese experts help to provide training courses for the Geographic Information System to our Cambodian archaeologists, as well as new technical skills for conservation, perseveration, and stone research and analysis," he says.

Preah Vihear is one of Cambodia's three sites registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The other two are the Angkor Archaeological Park in northwestern Siem Reap province and the Sambor Prei Kuk Archaeological Site in central Kampong Thom province.

Kong Vibol, director of the Preah Vihear Provincial Tourism Department, is confident that the Preah Vihear temple will be a popular destination for Chinese tourists in the post-pandemic era.

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"Thanks to our close relationship, Cambodia's attractive tourism sites and the proximity of the two countries, I believe that more Chinese tourists will spend their vacations in Cambodia in the future, and some of them will surely visit the Preah Vihear temple," he says.