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Tourists flock to Sambor Prei Kuk

Ven Rathavong / Khmer Times Share:
Locals hope to gain great benefits from an influx of free-spending tourists. Supplied

The Prime Minister last night led celebrations after the UN listed Sambor Prei Kuk temple complex as a World Heritage Site. Tourists have already started flocking to the site in Kampong Thom province.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has called on the international committee responsible for safeguarding Angkor Wat to extend its coverage to include the Sambor Prei Kuk archaeological site, as tourists flocked to the newly listed forest temple complex on the weekend.

Speaking at an event last night to celebrate the recognition of Sambor Prei Kuk, Mr Hun Sen said the International Coordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of Angkor (ICC-Angkor) should widen its remit to care for the new world heritage site.

He said he had discussed the issue with Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeung Sakona and informed the King of the proposal.

“We aim to extend the scope of ICC-Angkor, which is co-chaired by France and Japan,” he said. “We will continue discussions with Unesco, France and Japan.”

The Prime Minister confirmed he would also raise the issue with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during his official visit to Japan on August 6.

On the weekend, one couple took their wedding photos at Sambor Prei Kuk as visitors descended on the site.

“Now that it is listed as the world heritage site, I hope that our people will benefit a lot from this and I say many thanks to our ancestors who built this and kept it for us until this generation,” said Sem Norm, a temple guard, adding that he had been taking care of the temples since 1994.

Others hope tourism will help to boost the local economy.

“When we have more tourists then the people here can get more income by selling the souvenirs and our kids can even learn English language easily,” said Uch Srey Leakhena.

Thousands of students, members of the armed forces and officials from government ministries attended the celebration event at Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium last night.

Mr Hun Sen announced that Cambodia would mark the Unesco recognition of Sambor Prei Kuk every year on July 10.

The crowd flew hundreds of Cambodia and Unesco flags and wore T-shirts emblazoned with logos of Sambor Prei Kuk temple, as fireworks were set off to mark the heritage listing.

Mr Hun Sen told the audience the government would continue efforts to have Unesco recongise Koh Ker archaeological site, Phnom Kulen mountain and Banteay Chhmar temple as further examples of world heritage. The Sambor Prei Kuk temple complex, known as Ishanapura in sanskrit, was the ancient capital of the Chenla Empire.

It comprises 290 historical sites and locations and dates back to the late 6th and early 7th centuries CE.

The vestiges of the city cover 25 square kilometres and include a walled city centre as well as numerous temples, ten of which are octagonal, unique specimens of their genre in Southeast Asia.

Decorated sandstone elements in the site are characteristic of the pre-Angkor decorative idiom, known as the Sambor Prei Kuk style.

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