Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Visitors to Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple increase sharply in 2010

Tourists visiting Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple increased by almost four fold in 2010 thanks to good security and better infrastructure in the area, director of Preah Vihear province's tourism department Kong Vibol said on Saturday 1st January.

80,356 people visited the temple in 2010, up from 17,174 people in 2009, he told Chinese media source Xinhua by telephone. Of the figures, the domestic visitors were up 3.7 times to 78,419 from 16,405 and the foreign tourists increased by 1.5 times to 1,937 from 769.

"It's a huge increase of the tourists to the temple in 2010 due to better security and stability as the border tension with Thailand has been eased, and the good condition roads--easy to travel,"said Kong Vibol, adding "so visitors feel safe and more confidence to visit the temple."

Thailand and Cambodia had both claimed the eleventh century Hindu temple historically until it was awarded to Cambodia by the ICJ in 1962, based on a 1907 colonial era map. Thailand had been hoping to have the temple jointly listed by UNESCO, but in July 2008, it was enlisted as a World Heritage Site under Cambodian jurisdiction. Soon after a border conflict broke out over claims to the 1.8 square miles at the base of the temple that were not ruled on in 1962. Periodic clashes have broken out since and the border area in the region is heavily militarised. Thailand threatened to withdraw from UNESCO in July 2010 over Cambodia's new land management plans, and UNESCO's decided to put off deciding on the plans until 2011.

Keen to avoid violence, both sides have dedicated themselves to finding a diplomatic solution and the prime ministers of each country have met four times since September.

Given the uncertainty that surrounded the temple throughout July and August, it is perhaps surprising that the temple's tourist numbers were so strong. Perhaps the renewed attention the temple recieved as a result of the conflict boosted domestic tourist numbers as part of a show of nationalism and loyalty.

Thai access to the temple was blocked off as of June 2010, therefore the number of Thai tourists this year was likely to be very limited. In December 2010 however, Cambodia announced that they would reopen the border in the new year, thereby paving the way for increased numbers of Thai tourists in 2011.

In 2010, Preah Vihear province as a whole received 135,657 tourists, up 119 percent from 61,903 in 2009, Kong Vibol said. Of the figure, foreign tourists were up 32 percent to 11,249 from 8,512 in 2009.

Preah Vihear province has three ancient temples for tourists. They are Preah Vihear temple, Koh Ker temple and Preah Khan Kampong Svay temple.

Source: Xinhua

For more information on Thailand and Cambodia's dispute over the Preah Vihear temple, please see the menas borders website, here.

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