During a conflict, please avoid shooting the ancient temples.
This was the message delivered to more than 100 Cambodian soldiers and police stationed along the contentious Thai border in Preah Vihear province, including those guarding the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple, during a three-day heritage protection workshop last week.
The event, which also included military representatives from Laos, the Philippines and Malaysia, focused on armed forces obligations under the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of the Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.
Lim Bun Hok, an organiser and former UNESCO employee, explained the core message of the workshop, staged in Preah Vihear by the government’s National Commission of Cambodia for UNESCO.
“Soldiers have the responsibility to protect heritage and cultural areas, meaning that they should not shoot the heritage,” he said.
“They have to help to protect the heritage. It’s not only for soldiers in Preah Vihear, but the general idea is to get this message as far as possible into the region.”
Preah Vihear is an ancient Hindu temple located in the Preah Vihear province near the Thai border and is still a source of contention. During Khmer Rouge’s murder spree in the Seventies, Angkor Wat was damaged by gun fire and faced any number of erosion difficulties.
The Cambodians, at least, seem serious about the preservation of their history and culture unlike some certain roving bands of hairy beheaders in the Middle East one could mention.