Singapore archaeologists help with reforestation of potential Cambodian Unesco site

SINGAPORE - An archaeology team from Singapore is helping in the reforestation efforts of a potential Unesco World Heritage Site in Cambodia.

The Phnom Kulen, or the Mountain of Lychees in Cambodia, which is on Unesco's tentative list, has been cleared for agriculture and illegally logged for building timber. This has resulted in erosion across the site.

In June, archaeologist Lim Chen Sian from the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies and his team donated $500 that will go towards planting 5,000 tree seedlings across the site.

It is important that the landscape, once home to the legendary city of the rogue prince Jayavarman II who established the Khmer Empire in AD 802, is kept intact, said Mr Lim.

It is after all home to more than 100 historic features and monuments such as ancient temples and rock shelters as well as pre-historic caves.

The area is also home to about 4,000 villagers who live on the 25km long mountain range.

Mr Lim and his team are doing a multi-year research project on the links between Buddhist practice with Khmer royalty with the Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap (Apsara) in Cambodia.

The archaeological investigation on Phnom Kulen itself is a collaboration with the Apsara Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap, while the reforestation project is an initiative by Apsara deputy director-general H.E. Tan Boun Suy and Dr Ea Darith.

He said he feels that this is their social responsibility as social scientists studying the ancient past.

He believes it should be as well preserved as possible to ensure that the archaeological and natural heritage of Phnom Kulen will "be enjoyed by all in the future".

"Regenerating the forest is one way to ensure that not only the sites are protected from exposure to the elements, but also importantly the communities living on the mountain will have ample clean water supply," said Mr Lim.