A Change of Guard

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Friday, 14 December 2012

Cambodia’s world heritage Preah Vihear temple greets 93,340 tourists in 11 months

Souce:Xinhua  By

PHNOM PENH, Dec. 14, 2012 — Cambodia’s Preah Vihear Temple, one of the world heritage sites, welcomed about 93,340 local and foreign visitors in the first 11 months of this year, up 87 percent compared with 49,740 tourists at the same period last year, the statistics of Preah Vihear provincial tourism department showed Friday.
During the January-November period this year, the temple attracted some 86,950 local visitors and 6,390 foreigners, up 84 percent and 147 percent respectively compared with the same period last year, the statistics said.
Kong Vibol, chief of Preah Vihear provincial tourism department, said that the sharp increase was due to easy access by roads and end of military confrontation between Cambodian and Thai troops over disputed border near the temple. “With good security at the area, we predict that the temple will become one of the country’s largest tourism destinations in coming years,” he told Xinhua over the telephone.
Preah Vihear, a Hindu temple, is located on the top of a 525- meter cliff in the Dangrek Mountains, about 500 kilometers northwest of Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia.
It was inscribed in the World Heritage list on July 07, 2008.
The temple was a flashpoint of deadly armed clashes between Cambodian and Thai troops in February and April 2011 as Thailand claims the ownership of a 4.6 square km (1.8 square miles) scrub next to the temple.
However, the military tensions have eased since the former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s Pheu Thai Party won a landslide victory in the general elections in July last year. 


Big increase in tourism at Preah Vihear

PHNOM PENH – Almost 90,000 tourists have visited Preah Vihear temple so far this year – an 87% increase on the first 11 months of 2011.
Cambodian soldiers stand guard at Preah Vihear temple in this file photo from Feb 2011. Photo by Jetjaras Na Ranong.
Foreign tourist numbers increased by 147% from January to the end of November, with 6,396 foreign visitors. Cambodian visitor numbers were up by 84 per cent, with 86,953 visits.
“Causes for the increase in visitor numbers are a result of good security along the border area making it easier to visit,” Kong Vibol, a director of the Tourism Department in Preah Vihear province told the Phnom Penh Post.
“Another factor is that the national roads from Siem Reap and Phnom Penh have improved,” he said.
A 4.6 square kilometre area along the Thailand-Cambodia border around the centuries-old Hindu ruins remains under dispute and the temple has been a flashpoint for clashes between troops from both sides. 
Relations between Phnom Penh and Bangkok have improved under Yingluck Shinawatra’s government. Officials from Preah Vihear province met with their counterparts from Ubon Ratchathani to discuss opening a new border in August.
“The gateway does not only serve economic and commercial purposes, but also serves the tourism sector,” Vibol added. 
“We know Preah Vihear temple is an attractive site and there are good link roads from Siem Reap and from Phnom Penh. There will be more visitors in 2013.”
A Thai-Cambodian Joint Working Group to solve border disputes, especially the area around Preah Vihear, is next scheduled to meet in Bangkok on Dec 17.
Preah Vihear was listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2008 but the move was opposed by Bangkok, which accused Phnom Penh of acting unilaterally while border issues remained unresolved.
The Joint Working Group has followed up on recommendations made by the International Court of Justice in its 2011 ruling on the Preah Vihear dispute. The court wanted the two countries to withdraw their troops from a 17.3 sq km area that includes the temple while it considers Cambodia's request for a verdict on the disputed border area.

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