© John Vink / Magnum Photos


How far do you take a symbol?

Last night Bayon TV (owned or run by one of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s daughters) organised a huge show at the Olympic Stadium to welcome the delegation, headed by Vice-Premier Sok An, which managed to secure the 11th century temple of Preah Vihear on the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage.Before the actual party, the Vice Premier held a long speach explaining the difficult negotiations. On his left was a huge screen with images from the temple and the negotiations table. On his right a screen of the same size showed movie clips of Prime Minister Hun Sen and/or his wife Bun Rany distributing “krama” to the destitute, shaking hands with military, visiting hospitals and attending groundbreaking ceremonies.

The temple is located right next to the border with Thailand who disputes the present line of separation. Over the past months Preah Vihear became much more than an extraordinary temple in a stunning environment. It also triggers the nationalistic chords on both sides of the border. Tempers flare high very quickly beyond reason between the two countries, more often for reasons embedded deep in centuries-old history than for any other.Right now it seems that having Preah Vihear recognised as an exceptional site is not going to ease the tensions between the two kingdoms. Three Thai were arrested today on the Preah Vihear site by cambodian military while attempting to climb the fence marking the border.

Cambodia, crowd outside stadium

Vice-premier Sok An


3 Responses to “How far do you take a symbol?”

  1. wow, i had no idea the border between Thailand and Cambodia was still this contentious….I’d love to see a story from Vink on this entire issue…

    will we ever be freed of these things?…

    funny after having seen your remarkable story on the Temple itself, it’s odd to read all that history-deep tension….

    will wait for more pics :))….could you flesh this out for us, would love to see it (this border tension surrounding the nature of this remarkable temple)…



    bobblack - July 15th, 2008 at 7:06 pm

  2. Hi John,

    One small correction, Sok An is Deputy Prime Minister and Minister in charge of the Council of Ministers, he is not the Foreign Minister.

    I agreed that the temple listing has brought tension between the two countries. But as a Cambodian, I support the listing as it has awaken the nationalistic motion among Cambodian, whom have been divided for many decades due to external ideology and civil war

    ckim - July 16th, 2008 at 9:23 am

  3. Kim, you are absolutely right (the Foreign Minister is Mr. Hor Nam Hong), and I am very sorry for the mistake. But you were also extremely fast and saw the post within the first five minutes before I corrected it… Congratulations for your speed…

    john vink - July 16th, 2008 at 9:43 am