US gives $1m to repair home of the Hindu gods

The US Department of State has awarded around $1m to the World Monuments Fund (WMF) for conservation work on Phnom Bakheng (below), the oldest temple at the Angkor Wat complex in northwest Cambodia. Situated at the highest point in the city, it was built by Yasovarman I in 907 and was designed to represent Mount Mehru, home of the Hindu gods. Damaged in the 1970s by Khmer Rouge soldiers, the temple now faces two main threats: tourists and erosion by monsoon rains. In 2004 the State Department provided $550,000 to assess conservation needs and plan tourism management. The new grant will be used to restore the heavily damaged east elevation, after which a second phase will waterproof, repair and partially

reconstruct the temple. The chargé d’affaires at the US Embassy in Phnom Penh, Piper Campbell, describes the grant as “a significant diplomatic gesture”. The funding for Angkor is important because the US is among the countries known to have received looted Khmer antiquities in recent years. In 2003 the US and Cambodia entered into a bilateral agreement that imposes import restrictions on Khmer archaeological materials entering the US.

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