The Sambor Prei Kuk archaeological site, a cluster of hundreds of ancient brick temples scattered in the forest in Kampong Thom province, was built by Isanavarnam I, king of the Chenla Empire. The seventh-century ruins are an important piece of Cambodian history that predates the Angkorian period as it was once the ancient capital of Isanapura and a religious centre for the worship of Shiva Brahmanism. The temples also have some “particularity” to them as the rooms inside the temples are rectangular rather than square, as is largely seen in later Khmer architecture.
Sambor Prei Kuk’s registration as a World Heritage Site, for which the documents were submitted in 2016, helps to fund restoration works, Culture and Fine Arts Ministry spokesman Thai Norak Satya said.
“The benefit we gain from Unesco is their financial support for repairing [the temples],” he said. “Any place that is not safe we would never let the tourists enter. The place has to be good and safe like Angkor Wat.”
Until now, the site has not drawn many foreign tourists and it is hoped more would be drawn to the site and province in the future.
“It has been acknowledged not only by Cambodian people but the whole world,” Ms Sakona, Culture Minister, said of the site. “It is such a Cambodian pride.”
The two other temple complex World Heritage sites in Cambodia are Angkor Wat and Preah Vihear, listed in 1992 and 2008 respectively.