Though no evidence has yet been presented we’re assuming that as Hun Sen claimed in his letter to the UN security council, (see below), that there was substantial damage to the temple, then it must be true to some extent or he’d end up looking pretty foolish! So….
I last visited Preah Vihear some 6 months ago and was given a ‘guided’ tour of the temple site by 2 young Khmer soldiers. It’s necessary to take a motodop from the foot of the hill up a new sealed road to a small car park at the summit at a point where the new road meets the old, original steps. Though the start and end of this new road are clearly in Khmer territory the road does pass though disputed areas as it winds up the western slope of the hillside.
Khmer army defenses are constructed along the side of the steps on the last section between the car-park and gopura V of Preah Vihear where it meets the main entrance steps leading up from the northern base of the hill so it’s impossible to reach the temple without passing through the military positions. The soldiers didn’t mind at all and even allowed me to take photos of their defences which consisted of some rudimentary slit trenches and sandbagged emplacements containing what appeared to be light canons and medium machine guns. There also appeared to be 1 heavier calibre canon slightly higher up the slope, someway to the west of the main shrine area, (but not being an expert we can’t specify actual calibres or gun types.)
Note also that Khmer troops were camped in situ with their wives and kids. The military installations looked like they’d been there for a while and since the last 6 months have been relatively quiet we assume that positions 3 days ago were fairly similar to those of 6 months ago.
Photo 2 is also on the old pathway with the car-park in front, gopura V behind and Thai army positions off to the left.
The Thai border patrol base is situated immediately below and to the west of the Khmer positions along the old pathway.
Below is the view from the foot of the staircase on the Thain side to Preah Vihear temple. i.e. the nature of the slope makes the temple buildings difficult to see from the Thai side.
Anyway to cut a long story short Khmer defences are situated some way away from the temple, we saw no military fixed positions or equipment, (other than soldiers with small arms), at the temple and the temple itself would be an illogical defensive position for anything other than a frontal assault on the temple anyway, (since you’d have virtually zero field of fire in a northwards direction.) Therefore regardless of who started it any excuses of collateral damage or stray shells with regards damage to the temple is total BS! We therefore hope UNESCO are taking note of any deliberate acts of military vandalism or destruction on an 11th century world heritage site and would bear in mind that any such acts are destroying WORLD heritage and not just Cambodian!
According to this report sent to the UN by the Cambodian govt. serious damage was done to the temple!
The official Cambodian report states 10 soldiers killed, most media reports are still stating 1, whilst Thai military claims put the figure at 64!? Again, whoever started it – (Khmers claimed Thai troops moving into Khmer held areas and ignoring warning shots was the cause, whilst Thai officers claimed an unprovoked bombardment of a Thai village was what kicked it all off) -we hope the Thai generals are proud of an absurd and tragic over-reaction of an extent the Israelis would be proud of!