Seven pre-Angkorian temples have been discovered on two land concessions in Preah Vihear province, but while an Environment Ministry official said Tuesday that the ministry had no knowledge of the temples when they granted the concessions, the Culture Ministry said their existence had long been known.
After reports that the Cambodia Blue Heaven Ltd. and Cambodia Down Plantation Ltd. companies—which hold the concessions of about 10,000 hectares each—had damaged the temples, the two ministries sent a delegation to the sites in Kulen and Choam Ksan districts last week to examine them.
“We heard that the companies encroached on the land surrounding the temple and we went to verify if this is true,” Phann Nady, deputy director of the Ministry of Culture’s department of cultural heritage, said Tuesday, adding that the temples were in fact found to be undamaged.
Sao Sopheap, chief of cabinet in the Ministry of Environment, said that his ministry had no knowledge of the existence of the temples when they granted the two companies the land concession.
“We did not know that the temples were located in the ELC,” Mr. Sopheap said, declining to say when the concessions were granted or how large they were.
However, Mr. Nady said the location of the temples had been known for at least ten years.
“It’s not just these companies, most companies have temples or archeological sites,” he added.
However, under the Law on the Protection of Cultural Heritage, adopted in 1996, the government has “to protect national cultural heritage and cultural property in general against illegal destruction, modification, alteration, excavation, alienation, exportation or importation.”
Therefore, the companies holding concessions were obliged to protect the temples on their property, Mr. Nady said.
“We [told] them that maybe in one or two years we will go there to check [on the sites] but I think the company are also afraid to do something wrong. They have to promise that the temple will be saved,” he said.
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