The Temple of Preah Vihear, which is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, is situated on Cambodia’s northern border with Thailand. The property consists of a series of sanctuaries which are linked by a network of paths and stairs. The Temple was built in the first half of the 11th century but its history dates back even earlier, to the 9th century. The site dominates the cliff-top location, which offers unrestricted views of the plains below. Its layout is in perfect harmony with the surrounding natural topography, which is considered a divine element of the orientation of the Temple. The misty halo that surrounds the temple adds to the supernatural aura and is the basis for the local legend that the temple is part of paradise.
France, under the France-UNESCO Cooperation Agreement, supported the nomination of the Temple of Preah Vihear in 2004 and 2007. In 2004, the association of friends of Angkor (Association des Amis d’Angkor (AAA)) was called upon to assist the Cambodian authorities in finalising the nomination proposal. A proposal was finalised in January 2005 by Cambodia with technical assistance from the AAA, and submitted for examination at the 31st session of the World Heritage Committee (Christchurch, 2007). Although the Outstanding Universal Value and great international significance of the Sacred Site of the Temple of Preah Vihear was acknowledged at the 31st session, the property wasn’t inscribed and the State Party of Cambodia was requested to strengthen conservation and management at the site by making progress in developing an appropriate management plan. The management plan was particularly complex to establish because of the nature of the buffer zone.
In September 2007, under the France-UNESCO Cooperation Agreement, the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs appointed an expert mission at the request of Cambodia to prepare a report and a summary report. Cambodia prepared a 400-page supplement to the nomination dossier which was submitted on 28 January 2008. This enabled the formal inscription of the Temple of Preah Vihear on the World Heritage List at the 32nd session of the World Heritage Committee (Quebec, 2008).