Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Prasat Ta Muen Thom is heartbreaking. On my visit to the temple last week, which is the subject of a long-running dispute over ownership between Thailand and Cambodia, it was obvious that the temple, because of its remote location in the forested border area, had suffered badly at the hands of temple thieves over the years. For several years in the 1980s it was held by the Khmer Rouge, who in league with art dealers, tried to remove all of the temple's carvings, damaging many in their crude attempts which included the use of explosives. The main sanctuary and satellite buildings are now devoid of any lintels or pediments and the dvarapala male guardians and female devata that decorated the pilasters next to the doorways, are in a distressed state, as you can see from the pictures here. Heads have been chiselled away, whole sandstone blocks removed or feet have been left as a reminder of the beautiful 11th century carvings that once graced this important temple. I was so pleased to be able to visit this temple, particularly in light of the on-going border tensions between the two countries, but the destruction I found sadly reminded me of visits to other temple sites like Preah Khan of Kompong Svay where similar antiquity thefts have left the temple a mere shadow of its former self. More from my visit to the Ta Muen group of temples soon.