The ancient temple of Khao Phra Viharn, which Thailand lost control of in a split World Court decision in 1963, occupies a unique position on the Thai-Khmer border.
The ancient temple of Khao Phra Viharn, which Thailand lost control of in a split World Court decision in 1963, occupies a unique position on the Thai-Khmer border. However, it is now open for visits by Thais and other tourists, under certain circumstances.
The World Court decision ruled that this once-forbidden sanctuary should come under the administration of the Khmer authorities. It stands on a hill in Khmer territory, but the entrance to the temple can only be reached form the gentler slopes of Thailand.
So far Khao Phra Viharn has been left untouched by the war on the Khmer side of the border, though the plains below the temple have been overrun by Communist-led insurgents. Visitors from Khmer who wish to see the temple either have to be flown in by helicopter, or else cross the border into Thailand.
The temple was built at the height of the Khmer Empire in about 1026 A.D., and it is regarded as a marvel of engineering, art and architecture. Signs posted in the temple's grounds, describing its cultural and historic importance, have been respected by both the Khmer troops, who now guard it, and the insurgents.
The Khmer Government does not want the temple to fall into the hands of the insurgents, so presenting them with the same problem they had with Angkor Wat in not being able to re-capture it. Once the temple at Angkor Wat was in the hand s of the insurgents, the Government troops were unable to attack them for fear that the temple would be destroyed.
Although smaller than Angkor Wat, the Khao Phra Viharn temple was built during the same period, and it contains a great deal of ornate carvings inspired by Hindu mythology. Although the ruins are not maintained, the sites of palaces, meeting halls, and a reservoir, can still be distinguished.