Preah Vihear is a temple built in the early 9th century and was dedicated to the Hindu God, Shiva. This magnificent temple was built on the top of Pey Tadi, which is a steep cliff on the border between Thailand and Cambodia. This location resulted in an ongoing dispute between Thailand and Cambodia as to the ownership of the temple.
Preah Vihear has a turbulent history, as is said to be the last place in Cambodia to fall to the Khmer Rouge. Despite the Khmer Rouge capturing the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, in 1975, the Khmer National Armed Forced soldiers stationed at Preah Vihear managed to hold out after the collapse of the Khmer Republic government. The Khmer Rouge unsuccessfully tried to capture Preh Vihear several times, and succeeded on May 22, 1975, more than a month after Phnom Penh was captured. They did so by shelling the cliff, scaling it and routing the soldiers. The Khmer soldiers were able to step across the border and surrender to the Thai authorities.
In June 1979, after the Khmer Rouge had fallen to the Vietnamese, the Thai government expelled a large number of Cambodian refugees. Approximately 42,000 Cambodian refugees were taken to Preah Vihear. Some were shot or pushed down the 600 metre cliff. Others hid on top of the mountain and survived. Most climbed down using vines as rocks, while the soldiers threw big rocks over the cliff. Once the survivors reached the bottom of the cliff, they had to navigate around the landmines that had been scattered by the Khmer Rouge. Apparently 3,000 Cambodians died in this journey, and 7,000 were unaccounted for.
Throughout the years there have been deaths and injuries of Thai and Cambodian soldiers over the dispute of who actually owns Preah Vihear. Finally, in November 2013, the International Court of Justice ruled that the land Preah Vihear lies on belongs to Cambodia, and the Thai security forces were forced to leave.
This temple has now become more popular with tourists, which is great as the poverty rate in Preah Vihear was reported to be 41.5% in 2010. This will open up possibilities for the citizens of the province.
Preah Vihear is approximately 140km from Siem Reap, so if you want to see this glorious temple, you must dedicate a day to visiting.