Nem Sarun: a Lifetime Spent Working at the Bayon Temple

Nem Sarun sat at the excavation site next to the Bayon Temple. Photo: Isa Rohany

SIEM REAP — Nem Sarun has been working at the Bayon Temple in the Angkor Archeological Park for 20 years.

Until recently, her task was to remove the grass at the temple as part of a team of 10 people taking care of the vegetation that may affect the stones.

But recently, the 61-year-old woman who lives near Angkor Park was asked to join the excavation team working around the temple.

“This job includes excavating and carrying soil from place to place, but it enables me to know a lot about underneath such as soil layers,” Sarun said. So far, she has seen layers of red soil, black soil and sand, she said.

Workers in her team have to move the soil they excavate to a set location and set aside the excavated items such as stones and pieces of ceramics they have found so they can be studied.

Sarun said that this work has taught her a great deal about temple conservation and the need to know on what ground a temple stands to preserve it.

Bringing her own lunch from home, Sarun comes to work at the Bayon Temple with a woman who also lives in Nokor Krau village in Siem Reap City’s Kork Chak commune.

During the rainy season, the rain often hinders the work process. Sarun is assigned to other tasks if she cannot work on excavation due to the rain.

At home, Sarun is a farmer who plants a few crops on a vacant lot near her house. She grows enough rice for daily consumption.

Work in Angkor Park have helped many people in the area have decent jobs with decent incomes, Sarun said, adding that her daughter works as a guide at a site in the park. 

Sarun enjoys her work. And she is glad that, by removing grass and now doing her new job, she has contributed to preserving the site of Angkor and attracting visitors to the site, she said.

Originally written in Khmer for ThmeyThmey, this story was translated by Meng Seavmey for Cambodianess.

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