Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Prince and Preah Vihear

Prince Damrong visiting Preah Vihear temple (2nd from right)

October 7, 2009

Nationalism has clouded our view of the temple's ownership, argues one academic. But history has the simple answer

On 30 January 1929, Prince Damrong Rajanupab arrived at Preah Vihear as head of an official expedition from the Siamese court of King Prajadhipok (Rama VII). There to welcome him was the French commissioner for the Cambodian province along with the archaeologist Henri Parmentier, who was to act as guide for the expedition's trip up Panom Dongrek mountain to see its famed centuries-old Hindu temple.

The prince and the commissioner exchanged speeches of friendship at a cheerful reception attended by the entourage of high-ranking Siamese noblemen, before listening to a lecture on Preah Vihear Temple given by the French archaeologist. Fluttering above this happy scene was the flag of France.

"This is recorded history - a history that must not be forgotten by Thai students," said historian Charnvit Kasetsiri, at a talk titled "The Contested Temple" given recently at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand.

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