In the wake of a shooting that left two Preah Vihear forestry officers dead and another injured, plans are going ahead to construct two new guard houses at Phnom Kulen National Park.
Last week Apsara Authority staff visited the park, 50 kilometers from Siem Reap city, to scout locations for the two new houses at the recommendation of the International Coordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor.
Without security measures, Cambodia’s forests and national monuments are at the mercy of looters hoping to sell ancient artifacts, as well as poachers and illegal loggers. With big money at stake, forest patrols are growing increasingly dangerous. The trio who were shot at Preah Vihear over the weekend spent the day prior to the shooting on patrol.
“In Phnom Kulen, we need to strengthen the protection and conservation of ancient monuments,” Apsara Authority spokesperson Kérya Chau Sun explained over the phone Monday. “We built one guard house many years ago,” but as the need for increased security grows, so too must the infrastructure to support additional staff. So, Ms. Sun says, “We will build two more.”
Apsara Authority also recently constructed a toilet and house for visitors.
Currently, three technical archaeology staff members and 48 conservationists work at Phnom Kulen along with security staff.
Apsara Authority’s 20 years of work caring for the Angkor Park is being recognized by the ASEAN community. On October 30, Apsara welcomed nearly 60 researchers, professors and delegates from seven of the 10 ASEAN countries in the hopes of sharing Cambodia’s successes in the conservation, restoration and management of the Angkor Park.
Im Sok Rithy, vice president of the International Center for Research and Statutory Documents Angkor, said in a press release that the international community is beginning to recognize the work Apsara has undertaken in managing the Park.
“We are leading in the region so far,” Mr. Im confirms. “Other countries have taken us as an example.”