Currently among Cambodia’s top-listed sites for nomination to UNESCO’s World Heritage List, Banteay Chhmar (The Citadel of the Cats) is one of the great architectural masterpieces of Southeast Asia and the Khmer Kingdom’s epic Angkorian Period. Lacking any conservation over the past 800 years, the temple complex has slowly collapsed and disintegrated - its proud towers and awesome temples disappearing into the overgrowth. Coupled with threats from trees and the jungle, structural failure and looting, Banteay Chhmar is in critical need for conservation, master planning and increased protection. Local communities must be an integral part of the site’s protection and responsible development to ensure long-term success and proper management.
These communities are located in what is now one of the poorest countries of Southeast Asia, a country that was known 800 years ago as “Cambodia the Rich”. To modern Cambodians these temples represent potent symbols of past glory and the promise of future prosperity. Such is their national importance that Angkor is the only made-made monument to feature on a country’s national flag.
Since the 19th Century, teams of explorers, archaeologists and architects have made these temples their lives’ work, dedicating themselves to their study and conservation. However, in very few cases have these great works led to improvements in the lives and livelihoods of the Cambodians.
The vision of Global Heritage Fund’s Banteay Chhmar Conservation Training Project is to save the last great Angkorian Temple in Cambodia that remains unstudied, unconserved and unprotected and in doing so hand back the conservation of their heritage to the Cambodian people.