Preah Vihear

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Preah Vihear is a northern province of Cambodia. Its capital is Phnum Tbeng Meanchey. The province is named after the temple of Prasat Preah Vihear, also known as Prasat Khao Phra Wiharn in Thai, that sits on a hilltop with a commanding view of the Cambodian-Thai border. Probably predating Angkor Wat by a century, the history of the temple/fortress is somewhat unclear, but it is known to be dedicated to the god Shiva and thought to have been constructed in the reign of Suryavarman I (1002-50), with further significant additions by Suryavarman II (1113-50).

Much of Thai high culture was imported from the ancient Angkorian Empire and its archeaological sites have been coveted by Thail elites. Due to its location on the border between Cambodia and Thailand, ownership of the area was disputed until 1962, when the International Court of Justice ruled that it belonged to Cambodia.

In the tragic years that followed Cambodia suffered a massive U.S. bombing campaign, a brief U.S.-South Vietnamese invasion, and the overthrow of the Sihanouk monarchy by the U.S. sponsored General Lon Nol, all of which helped the previously minuscule Khmer Rouge guerrilla movement recruit many new followers. Civil war and three years of brutal Khmer Rouge misrule were the result. Although most of Cambodia was liberated by Vietnam in 1979, the Khmer Rouge continued to plague its people.

The temple opened briefly to the public in 1992, only to be occupied by a remnant force of Khmer Rouge the next year. It opened again from the Thai side at the end of 1998, and Cambodia completed the construction of a long-awaited access road in 2003. Cambodia allows visa-free day trips from Thailand to the temple.

Provincial districts

  • Chey Saen
  • Chhaeb
  • Choam Khsant
  • Kuleaen
  • Rovieng
  • Sangkom Thmei
  • Tbaeng Mean chey


  • International dispute
    • David K. Wyatt. 1982, 1984. Thailand: A Short History. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 0300035829. p. 284.
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