Preah Vihear (prĕ vēhērˈ) [key], Thai Phra Viharn prä wēˈhän, Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva, N central Cambodia near the Thai border. Situated on the edge of a plateau overlooking the N Cambodian plain, the temple was begun in the 9th cent. and completed in the 11th cent. and predates Angkor Wat (see under Angkor). Comprised of a series of sanctuaries linked by pavements and staircases, it is an outstanding example of Khmer architecture.
Claimed by both Cambodia and Thailand, the temple was awarded to Cambodia by the World Court in 1962, but Thailand continues to claim it. The site was occupied by the Khmer Rouge for years. Preah Vihear was designated a Cambodian World Heritage Site in 2008, a decision that infuriated the Thais. Subsequently, thousands of soldiers from both sides occupied the area, which has been the scene of several military skirmishes. In 2011 the International Court of Justice called for both nations to withdraw their troops from several square miles surrounding the temple and create a demilitarized zone; both governments removed their troops in July, 2012, and replaced them with police. The court subsequently (2013) awarded sovereignty over most of the disputed land around the temple to Cambodia.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.