After Angkor became popular in Europe, the French sent missions on foot to map the Cambodian forests around the temple of Angkor Wat. Many archaeologists went to Angkor working on restoring the ancient temples. As the archaeologists found more temples and remains of the great Barays, which are man-made reservoirs, it became clear that they were no longer looking at a cluster of temples but something bigger.
But, all this work had to be stopped in 1967 due to Cambodian Civil War which resulted in the rule of the communist organisation called the Khmer Rouge. From 1975 – 1979 was one of the deadliest times in Cambodian history, millions of people were killed during this war by the Khmer Rouge which was led by Pol Pot.
|Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge Leader|
The rule of this fanatical organisation ended in 1979 when the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia and captured Phnom Penh from the Khmer Rouge which retreated back into the jungles with Pol Pot still its leader.
They retreated to the mountainous region of Phnom Kulen which was just fifty kilometres away from Angkor. This area was the last refuge of Pol Pot and the murderous Khmer Rouge and this area was covered by the same group with landmines and still remains dangerous to wander around. So what, mines can be diffused, they can be blasted, what’s the problem? The problem is that these mines were buried in an area of great archaeological importance, this area is supposed to be the origin of the Khmer Empire and here also lie several temples of great importance. So, the mines cannot just be blasted and need to be carefully diffused. While the Khmer spent their last days in these mountains, in Phnom Penh, a government was installed, a less atrocious one, by the Vietnamese.
This was good news for the Cambodians and the archaeologists who rued the war as most of the research and findings before the war had disappeared. Many temples which had been disassembled could not be assembled again as the blueprints were lost. The area around Angkor had become very dangerous due to the teeming presence of landmines. The area had become fraught with dangers and exploration became difficult but still they worked on. Many things of historical importance were lost and could not be found again because of the war, so the restoration work had to be started all over again: it was a fresh start.