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Preh Vihea, Mount of the Holy Monastery

In 2008, the territorial conflict between Cambodia and Thailand flared up and is still smoldering. The subject of the dispute was the territory of the Temple of Preh Vihea, located in the north of Cambodia on the natural cape of the Dangrek Mountains. Geopolitical experts say that Thailand’s desire to control the strategic height from which convenient for shelling Cambodia opens up – from the height of 657 meters, the Cambodian valley in the south lies palm on tens of kilometers into the territory. Experts complement: in spite of the recognition by the international community in 1962 of the temple’s territory as being under the jurisdiction of Cambodia, Thai politicians use it to “let off steam” in their country.

But there is another reason why Thailand is seeking to gain control of this temple – cultural studies. In seeking control over Preh Vihea, Thailand is thus trying to place under its management the World Cultural Heritage site, which Preh Vihea was declared by UNESCO in 2008.

Preh Vihea is the second largest temple of the Khmer Empire, which once occupied a vast territory within the borders of present-day Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Malaysia. Dedicated to Shiva, this temple was inferior in its status only to the Wat Phu temple, located today in the south of Laos. It was believed that such a high ascended Preh Vihea closest to heaven, the seat of Shiva: no wonder another name of the temple – Vihar Sawan, the Temple in heaven. The significance of the temple was reflected in the fact that it was built, rebuilt and maintained in due form successively seven kings of the Empire for almost four hundred years – from the 9th to the 12th century (the usual practice of that time: the new king built a new sacred temple, the temple of the previous king came to the decay).

Temples of Cambodia. Preh Vihea

… Today to Preh Vihea from Siem Reap is quite a quality road, a journey to it can be made in one day. The realities will be not only the ruins of an ancient monastery and a fascinating view from the cliff, but also minefields below, equipped soldiers of the armed forces of Cambodia, barbed wire on the border with Thailand and traces of snipers’ bullets on the ancient walls. If you’re lucky, you will find bas-reliefs unique to Khmer culture, not found anywhere else in Cambodia, and the most inquisitive may try to find Prasat Santhop – a mysterious structure whose purpose and construction time is still unknown.

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