Checkpoint between Cambodia and Laos could create a New Angkor Heritage Trail

Proudly contributed by Luc Citrinot

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They share a lot in their history, culture, religion. However, Cambodia and Laos official relations still remain limited with few common initiatives launched by both countries. They share a small border- 40 km only- but so far only one official international checkpoint (Voeung Kam-Dom Kralor) links Cambodia’s province of Stung Treng and Laos province of Pakse.

Following a meeting in early July in Phnom Penh between Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Lao counterpart Thongloung Sisoulith- freshly promoted to the post-, both governments acknowledged that it was time to move forwards at more rapid pace. Talks were conducted involving trade, investments, common infrastructure and tourism.

One of the conclusion is to open more border checkpoints between both countries to increase not only bilateral trade but also tourism. So far, there is only one official land checkpoint along the 40-km long border between Cambodia and Lao PDR:

A Cambodia’s Foreign Ministry statement released earlier in June indicated that one new checkpoint has been approved to be built in Preah Vihear province.  The checkpoint’s construction is part of a larger plan to link the two countries with a road and bridge over the Ropov River, making it easy to cross between Preah Vihear and Laos’ Pakse province.

Two consulates opened in July in Stung Treng for Lao PDR and in Pakse for the Kingdom of Cambodia.

The future checkpoint will then link two of the most beautiful Angkorian archaeological sites: Preah Vihear temple in Cambodia and Vat Phou in Champassak Province in Lao PDR. Both temples are listed on UNESCO World Heritage List. Vat Phou was inscribed in 2001 while Preah Vihear is on the list since 2008. Both temples will show another long-standing common history of a Khmer empire which used to stretch all over the Mekong area some 800 years ago, covering Cambodia, Southern Laos and parts of Northeastern Thailand.

From Preah Vihear, travellers could further go south back to Angkor Wat or move from Wat Phu in Laos northwest to two other spectacular -if less known- ancient temples located in Thai territory: Prasat Sikhoraphum and Prasat Kamphaeng Yai. The first one dates from the 12th century and the second one from the 11th century.

Preah Vihear could then be further linked to another architectural jewel of the old Khmer empire. In Thailand’s province of Buriram, the spectactular Phnom Rung -one of the best preserved temples in that area- could then benefit from a quicker access to Preah Vihear, if both Cambodia and Thailand work together on ways to facilitate the access to the controversial area. From Phnom Rung, an old royal Road from the ancient Khmer Empire goes to another major religious site, Phimai temple, near Nakhon Ratchasima.

What seems to be exciting news for history-loving travellers will however be first restricted to locals. According to an adviser of Cambodia’s Prime Minister, the new checkpoint is likely to be only opened to residents of both countries. But this could rapidly change if international interest rises.

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