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Released on May 23, the book features people behind the scenes who protect Angkor and keep the site alive
PHNOM PENH—For centuries, people have lived at Angkor, holding religious ceremonies and guarding the temples as much as they could. Then over the last 100 years or so, they were joined by a small army of experts who came to restore these monuments that are now world-famous with the site inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage List.
On May 23, the Apsara National Authority and Thmey Thmey Media launch the book “The Guardians of Angkor.” Released first in Khmer and later on in English, the book celebrates ordinary Cambodians who live and work in Angkor Archeological Park as well as the Cambodian experts who today manage and keep on restoring the monuments and researching the many unknowns that remain about the history of the monuments and people who have lived next to them.
People featured in the book range from a monk in charge of a pagoda that has been at Angkor for 800 years or so; a stone “doctor” who cares for the monuments’ centuries-old stones; a villager blacksmith who made swords and knives, and his grandson who has taken over since he passed away; one of the rare makers of the musical instrument tro who remembers Angkor of the 1960s when people would go to the temples to get reprieve from the heat. Plus, the Cambodian architect, project manager and senior stoneworkers who were part of the first restoration project entirely handled by a Cambodian team, that of the Kandal Srah Srang temple.
“The book highlights the contribution and the importance of the Guardians of Angkor: Every person gets involved and contributes to protecting, restoring, researching and conserving the historical site of Angkor, be it the temples, culture or traditions,” said Minister of Culture and Fines Art Phoeurng Sackona. This joint effort between the APSARA National Authority and ThmeyThmey News will help make the public aware of all the people who contribute to protect Angkor and make this historical site a living one.
As APSARA Authority Director-General Hang Peou explained, the book will help make Cambodians as well as foreigners aware that this is a site with people who have lived in the shade of the temples for generations and that a small army of people work at making sure it remains standing for centuries. “The book underlines significant stories of people who are dedicating their lives to taking care of Angkor and its temples,” he said. “Their affection for this cultural heritage is unmeasurable and their dedication should be appreciated and supported,” he said.
Sao Phal Niseiy, editor in chief of Cambodianess.com—the English-language news website of ThmeyThmey.com—and co-author of the book, said that he hoped the book will not only make people aware of the ongoing conservation efforts at Angkor but also inspire people to value those involved in protecting and preserving this cultural heritage, which they do with passion and true affection for every element of this site.
“The main purpose of the book is to not only tell the story of these local people and experts who have been preserving the millennium-old temples as well as the culture and practices of the Angkor area, but also that it helps readers, in general, be aware that these people actually are the guardians of Angkor. And that they deserve to get more appreciation, respect and support financially as well as morally,” he said.
“But this can only happen when people are aware of who they are, the work they do and the role they play to keep Angkor standing and alive,” Phal Niseiy added.
The 215-page book, which contains 15 chapters, will first be released in Khmer. The English-language version will come out at a later date.
The publication of the book is sponsored by Aide et Action International and Cambrew LTD.