Friday, December 07, 2007

Prasat Ta Muen Thom re-visited

The southern edge of Prasat Ta Muen Thom and the tree-line that forms the border between Cambodia and Thailand
Michael Freeman’s excellent Guide to Khmer Temples in Thailand and Laos throws a bit more light on the border temples of Prasat Ta Muen Thom, Ta Muen Toch and Ta Muen, which I blogged in an earlier post today, after Radio Free Asia reported on the dispute over temple ownership between Cambodia and Thailand.
Of the temples, Prasat Ta Muen Thom, constructed earlier than the other two, in the late 11th century, is the most notable and is situated by one of the principal passes over the Dangrek Mountains, and is unique amongst the sanitized Khmer temples in Thailand as it’s in the middle of a tall, dense forest. Its recent history, however, is one of the saddest. For several years during the 1980s it was held by the Khmer Rouge, who with the connivance of unscrupulous dealers, abused it badly. All carvings of substantial value were removed, or damaged in crude attempts at removal, including the use of dynamite. Of the three towers, the central and north-eastern ones were virtually levelled.
In its forested setting, the sanctuary was built on the crest overlooking the small valley of a stream that runs in front of the temple, and unusually for Khmer temples, the main gopura faces south. The main shrine contains a natural rock linga and with the later addition of a hospital and resting house nearby (Ta Muen Toch and Ta Muen) add to the evidence that this was a major site on the Royal Road leading from Angkor to Phimai as it crosses the mountains. Ta Muen Toch is 1.5km and Ta Muen 2kms from the larger temple. Work on restoring the temples began in 1991 by the Thai Fine Arts Department and the trees at the foot of the approach to the larger temple, from the south, is where the existing border has been demarcated. The photo above shows the edge of the temple and the tree-line. Photo courtesy of Angkor Explorers.

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