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Rising above the temple storm

An objective look at the facts behind the fury surrounding the Preah Vihear ownership debate

PRASART PRAH VIHARN: KONG THAI RUA KHONG KRAI KANNAIR (PREAH VIHEAR:
DOES THE TEMPLE BELONG TO THAIS OR OTHERS?): Available in Thai at all
good bookshops for 99 baht.

Do we need another book on the subject of Preah Vihear – an ancient
Khmer style temple that has been sparking rows between Thailand and
Cambodian time and again?

Given the magnitude of the problem and associated arguments _ most
of them funnelled by patriotic or political motives _ the need for a
dispassionate look at the underlying issues is, if anything, more
important.
If you are looking for a book that will confirm your patriotic
ideology, this is not for you. It addresses the temple as a cultural
heritage object with a long history shared by both countries.
Santi Pakdeekam is an expert on Cambodia. A graduate from Silpakorn
University’s faculty of archaeology, he later pursued a master’s degree
in ancient Eastern inscriptions and teaches Khmer language at
Srinakharinwirot University.
He has also written many history books, including a review of the Khmer versions of the Ramayana.
This 97-page book is not a chatty anecdote-filled tome, nor a
serious, yawn-inducing academic book on history and archaeology. It
treads a middle path.
Santi presents his arguments dispassionately, while explaining why the temple means so much to both sides.
In 1038, King Suriyavoraman I built the magnificent temple and
called it ”Sri Sikareesuan”, which originated from the word for Shiva
lingum.
This was how the temple was known until the legal dispute between
Thailand and Cambodia unfolded over Preah Vihear at the International
Court of Justice at The Hague in 1959.
The book includes everything you need to know to understand the
Preah Vihear dispute: the notorious 1:200,000 scale map made by the
French, Unesco’s role, and previous political attempts to claim
ownership of the temple.
Thanks to his solid knowledge and unbiased passion, Santi manages to tell a story of the temple that stands the test of time.
”People tend to forget that this stone temple does not belong to
certain country. Indeed, it is heritage of the Southeast Asian region
and it deserves collective conservation.”
The book is readable even for readers without historical knowledge
of the temple, and is ideal for those who prefer a sober view.
Bangkok Post

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