Saturday, November 27

New Thai temple sparks controversy over claims it mimics Angkor Wat | Thailand

A temple complex being built in northeast Thailand has been embroiled in controversy, after the design was claimed to be an attempt to replicate Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, the world’s largest religious monument.

The Cambodian government reportedly plans to send archaeologists and temple architects to inspect whether the site is too similar to Angkor Wat, the national symbol depicted on the country’s flag.

Thai authorities and the abbot behind the construction of the Sihanakhon temple complex in Buriram province, which has already cost more than 100 million baht (£ 2.25 million), have denied trying to imitate the temple. , saying it has much broader influences.

Khattiya Chaimanee, a Buriram cultural official, said the design reflected the typical characteristics of Khmer stone castles, which can be found in the architecture of the southern Isan region of northeast Thailand. This includes the new temple’s Naga Bridge, a long walkway built in the shape of a Naga, he said.

The design did not match exactly, he said: “In this temple, the groups of temples are lined up in a row, from the largest to the smallest, which is completely different from the Angkor Wat landscape.”

But Khattiya added that the original inspiration came from the chief monk, who, in a dream, saw himself in a past life as one of the troops who helped build the sprawling Angkor Wat complex, which dates back to the 12th century. “So when he entered monasticism he would like to resume that,” he said.

Officials from the Cambodian embassy in Thailand visited the site last month after the hashtags #SaveAngkorWat and #Angkorwatbelongtokhmer were shared on social media. The Cambodian Ministry of Culture later said that the design had not copied the design of Angkor Wat or any temple in Cambodia.

However, Cambodian officials have reportedly said they will investigate further. On Wednesday, the director of the culture ministry, Hab Touch, told the Khmer Times that experts would visit Thailand to examine the construction. No date was set, he said, due to Covid-related travel restrictions.

Khattiya said he was not aware of a planned visit.

Pa Chamroeun, president of the Cambodian Institute for Democracy, said it was unclear how similar the temple was to Angkor Wat, but that it was a sensitive subject. “Anything that creates national tension between these two nations should be avoided,” he said.

Previously, a long-running dispute over Preah Vihear, an 11th-century temple that, in a 1962 ruling, the international court of justice found belonged to Cambodia, has led to clashes between the two neighbors. In 2003, rumors that a Thai soap opera actor had suggested that Thailand should take over Angkor Wat escalated into riots and a diplomatic row.

“If you really appreciate the value of this temple, you should come visit Cambodia and see the real ancient temple,” said Pa Chamroeun.

Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world, has been displayed on the Cambodian flag since independence, although a model of the temple is also featured in the royal palace in Bangkok. In the late 19th century, Rama IV of Siam sought to dismantle Angkor Wat and rebuild it in Thailand, although the plot failed after his troops were ambushed. Instead, a much smaller version was built in the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in the Grand Palace.

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