From garment workers to guardians: The women restoring Angkor’s temples

At the Angkor Archaeological Park, numerous former garment workers and people from various professions have taken up the task of restoring the temples alongside highly-skilled


Numerous former garment workers and individuals from other professions have also taken up the task of restoring temples. PHOTO: ANA/THE PHNOM PENH POST

August 21, 2023

PHNOM PENH – At the Angkor Archaeological Park, in addition to the typical sight of highly-skilled men and women as site managers with many years of technical experience overseeing temple restorations, numerous former garment workers and individuals from other professions have also taken up the task.

The APSARA National Authority (ANA) recently highlighted how at the Trapeang L’peou temple restoration site, a bustling team was engrossed in conserving and repairing brick temples. It said in a social media post that this clearly demonstrated the pivotal role of everyday Cambodians in the conservation and restoration of these ancient wonders.

Men Roeun, a 43-year-old from Nokor Krao village, is among those dedicated workers at Trapeang L’peou temple. She began her journey with ANA in 2000, initially as a travel agent at the temple. By 2013, her role shifted from facilitating tours to becoming an integral part of the temple brick restoration team.

Recalling her early days, Roeun shared: “When I began this work, it was daunting since I lacked experience.”

Initially, tasks as simple as preparing mortar posed challenges. Doubts crept in about her suitability for the role.

Yet her unwavering passion ensured that she remained committed to temple restoration for a decade. Her expertise now extends to projects at the Kork Chak and Kravan temples, and presently, Trapeang L’peou temple.

Che Dy, a former garment worker, now possesses expertise on par with other seasoned members of the restoration team. Before embarking on her journey in temple restoration, she remembers the melancholy she felt witnessing the decayed temples. However, the team’s efforts in breathing life back into these structures have brought her immense joy.

“While the work is often exhausting, my dedication drives me forward. My sole aim is to ensure these temples stand tall for future generations,” she expressed.

In the ANA’s post, both Roeun and Dy conveyed their enthusiasm about being part of a diverse team, comprising both men and women. Their work not only contributes to preserving Cambodia’s heritage but also instils immense pride in their families.

The women believe the restoration marks found on ancient temples will stand as testament to this generation’s dedication. They also believe it is a beacon, signalling to future generations to continue the tradition of care, restoration and conservation.

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