China key contributor to safeguarding Cambodia's famed Angkor Archaeological Park

Culture

China has been one of the key contributors to safeguarding, preserving and developing the famed Angkor Archaeological Park in northwest Cambodia's Siem Reap province, officials said on Wednesday.

XinhuaUpdated:  April 28, 2022
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China has been one of the key contributors to safeguarding, preserving and developing the famed Angkor Archaeological Park in northwest Cambodia's Siem Reap province, officials said on Wednesday.

Photo taken on April 5, 2022 shows the Bayon Temple in the Angkor Archeological Park in Siem Reap province, Cambodia. China has been one of the key contributors to safeguarding, preserving and developing the famed Angkor Archaeological Park in northwest Cambodia's Siem Reap province, officials said on Wednesday.(Photo by Van Pov/Xinhua)

The Angkor Archaeological Park, inscribed on the World Heritage List of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1992, is the most popular tourist destination in the Southeast Asian nation.

Covering an area of 401-square kilometers, the Angkor site contains the magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire from the ninth to the 15th century, and it consists of scores of key temples such as the Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Bayon, Chau Say Tevoda and Ta Keo, among others.

Long Kosal, deputy director-general and spokesman for the Apsara National Authority, which is the government agency responsible for managing, safeguarding and preserving the site, said China has helped restore ruined temples there since 1997, restoring the Chau Say Tevoda temple and the Ta Keo temple successfully.

He said the restoration work on the Chau Say Tevoda was completed in 2008 and on the Ta Keo, which started in late 2010, was concluded in 2018.

"And since 2019, the Chinese experts have begun working on the 11-year restoration project of the Phimeanakas temple located inside the walled enclosure of the Royal Palace of the Angkor Thom," he told Xinhua.

Built in the middle of the 10th century, the Phimeanakas temple was considered a place of worship in the Royal Palace, which covered an area of 581 meters long and 242 meters wide.

Kosal said that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the restoration work is still going on smoothly.

"We highly value China's active contribution to the protection, preservation and development of the Angkor," he said. "China's assistance has not only contributed to ensuring the sustainable development of our cultural heritage, but also helped train Cambodian experts on restoration and preservation work."

Meanwhile, Kosal said that during the pandemic when few tourists visited the site, the Apsara National Authority had taken the opportunity to do renovation work, maintenance and gardening at the site in order to improve its beauty.

"Now, the Angkor Archaeological Park is ready to welcome all tourists from around the world," he said. "As our country has reopened its borders to fully vaccinated travelers without quarantine, I believe that more international tourists will spend their holidays visiting the Angkor in the near future."

Prior to the pandemic, the Angkor attracted up to 2.2 million international visitors in 2019, earning 99 million U.S. dollars in revenue from ticket sales.

Tourism ministry's secretary of state and spokesman Top Sopheak said the number of foreign tourists to the Angkor has gradually recovered in the first quarter of 2022, adding that it received 19,840 foreign tourists during the January-March period this year, up 342 percent from 4,482 over the same period last year.

"Now, the Angkor attracts about 400 foreign tourists a day, a gradual increase from only 70 per day during the pandemic in the past two years," he told Xinhua.

Sopheak recalled that prior to the pandemic, the site received up to 9,000 international visitors a day.

Chhay Sivlin, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, said some tour and travel operators have restarted their businesses after the country has fully resumed its socioeconomic activities and reopened its borders to vaccinated travelers without quarantine, buoyed by high vaccination rates.

"We hope that international visitors will gradually return to Cambodia, especially to the Angkor, because several flights between Cambodia and other countries have been resumed," she said.