New Thai Temple Rekindles Dispute with Cambodia

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The Cambodian government would send specialists to the construction site in northeast Thailand to determine whether it is a copy of Angkor Wat, a temple complex from the twelfth century and the national pride of Cambodia.


The hashtags #SaveAngkorWat and #Angkorwatbelongtokhmer did not lie. Cambodians suspect Thailand of wanting to copy their Angkor Wat. The Cambodian temple is the largest religious monument globally and is depicted on the country’s national flag.

Now Thailand in Buriram province is diligently building a temple complex that looks suspiciously like Angkor Wat. In response to the turmoil on social media, a delegation from the Cambodian embassy in Thailand last month took a look. The Cambodian Ministry of Culture stated that it was not a copy of Angkor Wat.

On Wednesday, however, the director of the same ministry, Hab Touch, told the Cambodian newspaper Khmer Times that a group of experts would visit the new Thai temple complex for a new investigation. There was no date for the excursion yet, due to restrictions due to corona, according to the director.

The cultural authority for the Thai province of Buriram, Khattiya Chaimanee, states that there are major differences with Angkor Wat. “The tower complexes of the new temple are aligned, sorted from largest to smallest. Completely different from the division in Angkor Wat.” He also tells The Guardian that he is not aware of an imminent Cambodian excursion.

He explains that the design of the new temple complex has typical features of the stone castles according to the Khmer tradition, which is found not only in Cambodia but also in northeastern Thailand.
Khattiya did mention a link with Angkor Wat. He told The Guardian that the head monk of the new temple saw in a dream that he had helped build Angkor Wat in a previous life. “He wanted to continue that work after his accession,” Khattiya said.

The dispute appears to be a new episode in the historic temple dispute between the two countries. In 2003, a Thai actor suggested that Thailand should take over Angkor Wat, which even led to diplomatic tensions between the neighbours.

In 1962, Cambodia won a lawsuit in the International Court of Justice over an 11th century temple. Thailand had to recognize that the temple, Preah Vihear, belonged to Cambodia. Even longer ago, at the end of the 19th century, a Thai monarch’s attempt to tear down and rebuild a Cambodian temple in Bangkok failed.



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