From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Preah Vihear Temple or Prasat Preah Vihear (Khmer:
????????????????, Prasat Preah
Vihear) is a
temple situated atop Pey Tadi, a 525-metre (1,720 ft) cliff in the
Dângrêk Mountains in the
Preah Vihear Province of
Cambodia and near the border of
Sisaket Province in northeastern
following a significant dispute between Thailand and Cambodia over
ownership of the temple, the
International Court of Justice (ICJ) in
The Hague ruled that the temple belonged to Cambodia.
Affording a view for many kilometers across a plain, Prasat Preah
Vihear has the most spectacular setting of all the temples built
during the six-century-long
Khmer Empire. As a key edifice of the empire's spiritual life,
it was supported and modified by successive kings and so bears
elements of several architectural styles. Preah Vihear is unusual
among Khmer temples in being constructed along a long north-south
axis, rather than having the conventional rectangular plan with
orientation toward the east. The temple gives its name to Cambodia's
Preah Vihear province, in which it is located, as well as the
Khao Phra Wihan National Park in Sisaket Province, Thailand,
through which the temple is most easily accessible. On
2008, Preah Vihear was listed as a
World Heritage Site.
Preah Vihear is translated into Thai as Prasat Phra Viharn
or Prasat Khao Phra Viharn (?????????????????)
[In Thai the"Ph" is pronounced simply "p" ]. Prasat
has the same meaning in Khmer and Thai ("castle", sometimes
"temple") , and Khao is the Thai word for "hill" or
"mountain" (in Khmer: "phnom", Cambodians occasionally refer to
"Phnom Preah Vihear" as Thais sometimes refer to "Khao Phra
Viharn"). The words "Preah" and "Phra" (???)
mean "sacred," and the words "Vihear" and "Viharn" (?????)
mean "shrine" (the central structure of the temple). In Thai, the
word "khao" (???) has recently been omitted from the name in order
to differentiate between the temple and the cliff it is built on.
Thai mass media appear to have begun this convention.
The two versions of the name carry significant political and
national connotations (see
New dispute over
The temple sits atop Pey Tadi, a cliff in the
Dangrek Mountains which straddle the border between Thailand and
Cambodia. During different periods it has been located in Cambodia
and Thailand in turn. Following
Cambodian independence and the Thai occupation of the temple it
was listed by Thailand as being in
Bhumsrol village, (which means Village of pine trees)
Tambon Bueng Malu, (now merged with
Tambon Sao Thong Chai)
Sisaket Province (Thai:
??????????????? ???????????????) in Thailand. It is 110 km
Amphoe Mueang Si Sa Ket, the center of Si Sa Ket province. After
ICJ ruling that it belonged to Cambodia permanently settled
ownership of the temple, it was listed as being in Swaijrum, Kon
Choam Khsant District,
Preah Vihear Province (Khmer:
????????????? ????????? ??????????????? ??????????????) in Cambodia.
The temple is 280 km from
Angkor Wat and 296 km from
Plan of Prasat Preah Vihear.
Construction of the first temple on the site began in the early
9th century; both then and in the following centuries it was
dedicated to the
in his manifestations as the mountain gods
Bhadresvara. The earliest surviving parts of the temple,
however, date from the
Ker period in the early 10th century, when the empire's capital
was at the city of that name. Today, elements of the
Banteay Srei style of the late 10th century can be seen, but
most of the temple was constructed during the reigns of the kings
Suryavarman I (1002 -1050) and
Suryavarman II (1113 -1150). An inscription found at the temple
provides a detailed account of Suryavarman II studying sacred
rituals, celebrating religious festivals and making gifts, including
parasols, golden bowls and elephants, to his spiritual advisor,
Divakarapandita. The Brahman himself took an interest in the
temple, according to the inscription, donating to it a golden statue
of a dancing Shiva.
International dispute over ownership
In modern times, Prasat Preah Vihear was rediscovered by the
outside world and became subject of an emotional dispute between
Thailand and the newly independent Cambodia.
Siam and the French colonial authorities ruling Cambodia formed a
joint commission to demarcate their mutual border. In the vicinity
of the temple, the group was tasked by the two governments to work
under the principle that the border would follow the watershed line
of the Dângrêk mountain range, which places Preah Vihear on the
Thailand side. In
after survey work, French officers drew up a map to show the
border’s precise location. The resulting map, which was sent to
Siamese authorities, showed Preah Vihear as being on the Cambodian
Thai forces occupied the temple following the withdrawal of French
troops from Cambodia. Cambodia protested and in 1959 asked the
International Court of Justice to rule that the temple lay in
Cambodian territory. The case became a volatile political issue in
both countries. Diplomatic relations were severed, and threats of
force voiced by both governments.
The court proceedings focused not on questions of cultural
heritage or on which state was the successor to the
Khmer Empire but on technicalities of the border demarcation
work early in the century and Thailand's subsequent treatment of the
Arguing in the Hague for Cambodia was former U.S. secretary of
Dean Acheson, while Thailand’s legal team included a former
British attorney general, Sir
Frank Soskice. Cambodia contended that the map showing the
temple as being on Cambodian soil was the authoritative document.
Thailand argued that the map was invalid, was not an official
document of the border commission, and violated the commission’s
working principle that the border would follow the watershed line,
which would place the temple in Thailand. If Thailand had not
protested the map earlier, the Thai side said, it was because Thai
authorities had practical possession of the temple, due to the great
difficulty of scaling the cliff from the Cambodian side, or had not
understood that the map was wrong.
the court ruled 9 to 3 that the temple belonged to Cambodia and, by
a vote of 7 to 5, that Thailand must return any antiquities such as
sculptures that it had removed from the temple. In its decision, the
court noted that over the five decades after the map was devised,
the Siamese/Thai authorities did not object in various international
forums to the map’s depiction of the temple’s location. Nor did they
object when a French colonial official received the Siamese scholar
and government figure
Prince Damrong at the temple in
Thailand had accepted and benefited from other parts of the border
treaty, the court ruled. With these and other acts, it said,
Thailand had accepted the map and therefore Cambodia was the owner
of the temple.
Thailand reacted angrily. It announced it would boycott meetings
Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, with Thai officials saying
this step was to protest a U.S. bias toward Cambodia in the dispute.
As evidence, Thai officials cited the pro-Cambodia vote of an
American judge on the court and Acheson’s role as Cambodia’s
advocate; the U.S. government replied that Acheson was merely acting
as a private attorney, engaged by Cambodia. Mass demonstrations were
staged in Thailand protesting the ruling.
Thailand eventually backed down. In January 1963, Cambodia
formally took possession of the site in a colorful ceremony attended
by close to 1,000 people, many of whom had made the arduous climb up
the cliff from the Cambodian side. A fit Prince Sihanouk, Cambodia’s
leader, bounded up the cliff in less than an hour, paused to sip
lemonade, then made offerings to Buddhist monks. In the ceremony, he
made a gesture of conciliation, announcing that all Thais would be
able to visit the temple without visas, and that Thailand was free
to keep antiquities that it had taken away from the site.
Civil war began in Cambodia in
the temple's location high atop a cliff served to make it readily
defensible militarily. Soldiers loyal to the
Nol government in
Phnom Penh continued to hold it long after the plain below fell
to communist forces. Tourists were able to visit from the Thai side
during the war. The
Khmer Rouge captured Phnom Penh in April 1975, but the soldiers
at Preah Vihear continued to hold out after the collapse of their
government. The Khmer Rouge made several unsuccessful attempts to
capture the temple, then finally succeeded on
shelling the cliff, scaling it and routing the defenders, Thai
officials reported at the time.
It was said to be the last place in Cambodia to fall to the Khmer
Full-scale war began again in Cambodia in December
when the Vietnamese army invaded to overthrow the Khmer Rouge. Khmer
Rouge troops retreated to border areas. In January, the Vietnamese
reportedly attacked Khmer Rouge troops holed up in the temple, but
there were no reports of damage to it. Large numbers of Cambodian
refugees entered Thailand after the invasion. In June 1979, Thai
security forces forcibly expelled tens of thousands of them back
into Cambodia in the vicinity of Preah Vihear. Unknown numbers were
landmines, gunfire and exposure; the government that Vietnam
Phnom Penh put the number of fatalities at more than 300.
Guerilla warfare continued in Cambodia through the 1980s and well
into the 1990s, hampering access to Preah Vihear. The temple opened
briefly to the public in 1992, only to be re-occupied the following
year by Khmer Rouge fighters. In December 1998, the temple was the
scene of negotiations by which several hundred Khmer Rouge soldiers,
said to be the guerrilla movement's last significant force, agreed
to surrender to the Phnom Penh government.
The temple opened again to visitors from the Thai side at the end
of 1998; Cambodia completed the construction of a long-awaited
access road up the cliff in
Preah Vihear as a World Heritage Site
On July 8, 2008, the World Heritage Committee decided to add
Prasat Preah Vihear, along with 26 other sites, to the World
Heritage Site list, despite several protests from Thailand.
As the process of Heritage-listing began, Cambodia announced its
intention to apply for World Heritage inscription by UNESCO.
Thailand protested that it should be a joint-effort and UNESCO
deferred debate at its 2007 meeting.
Following this both Cambodia and Thailand were in full agreement
that Preah Vihear Temple had "Outstanding Universal Value" and
should be inscribed on the
World Heritage List as soon as possible. The two nations agreed
that Cambodia should propose the site for formal inscription on the
World Heritage List at the 32nd session of the World Heritage
Committee in 2008 with the active support of Thailand. This led to a
redrawing of the map of the area for proposed inscription, removing
the 4.2sq kilometres of border territory awarded to Cambodia but
still occupied by Thailand and leaving only the temple and its
Thailand's political opposition launched an attack on this
revised plan (see New dispute over ownership) , claiming the
inclusion of Preah Vihear could "consume" the overlapping area of
the dispute lands. In response to the political pressure at home
Thailand withdrew its formal support for the listing of Preah Vihear
Temple as a World Heritage site.
Cambodia continued with the application for World Heritage status
and, despite official Thai protests, on July 7, 2008 (July 8th in
Cambodia) , Preah Vihear Temple was inscribed on the list of World
New dispute over ownership
Preah Vihear can be approached via
Tbeng Meanchey in Preah Vihear province or from
Siem Reap in
Siem Reap province via
Anlong Veng. Although the highway is bitumen when it leaves Siem
Reap, both roads are (occasionally) graded gravel once they begin to
approach the Dangrek escarpment.
The temple can be approached from
Sisaket Province of Thailand. Cambodia allows day-trip access to
the temple on a visa-free basis from Thailand. Cambodia imposes an
entrance fee of US$5 or 200 baht for foreigners (as of 2006, reduced
to 50 baht for nationals of Thailand) , plus a fee of 5 baht for
processing a copy of the passport. In addition, Thailand imposes an
access fee of 400 baht for entering the National Park.
Cambodia has from time to time cut off access from Thailand
during times of dispute with the Thai government.
The temple complex runs 800 m (2,600 ft) along a north-south
axis, and consists essentially of a causeway and steps rising up the
hill towards the sanctuary, which sits on the clifftop at the
southern end of the complex (120 m/390 ft above the northern end of
the complex, 525 m/1,720 ft above the Cambodian plain and
625 m/2,050 ft above sea level). Although this structure is very
different from the
temple mountains found at
it serves the same purpose as a stylised representation of
Mount Meru, the home of the gods.
The approach to the sanctuary is punctuated by five
gopuras (these are conventionally numbered from the sanctuary
outwards, so gopura five is the first to be reached by visitors).
Each of the gopuras before the courtyards is reached by a set of
steps, and so marks a change in height which increases their impact.
The gopuras also block a visitor's view of the next part of the
temple until he passes through the gateway, making it impossible to
see the complex as a whole from any one point.
The fifth gopura, in the
Ker style, retains traces of the red paint with which it was
once decorated, although the tiled roof has now disappeared. The
fourth gopura is later, from the
periods, and has on its southern outer
pediment, "one of the masterpieces of Preah Vihear" (Freeman, p.
162) : a depiction of the
of the Sea of Milk. The third is the largest, and is also
flanked by two halls. The sanctuary is reached via two successive
courtyards, in the outer of which are two
900-year-old temple on disputed Thai-Cambodia border named
world heritage site
Bunruam Tiemjarn, ????????? ????????????????? (Thai
Lost the Case - Lost territories to Khmer), Animate
Group Publishing Limited, Thailand, 2007
The New York Times, Jan. 8, 1963, p. 7.
United Press International, May 23, 1975
The New York Times, Dec. 6, 1998, p. 18.
- Coe, Michael D. (2003). Angkor and the Khmer Civilization.
Thames & Hudson.
- Higham, Charles (2001). The Civilization of Angkor.
University of California Press.