Rebuilding Baphuon Temple in Angkor, Cambodia

Tourists will soon be able to visit one of Angkor’s greatest treasures: the 11th century Baphuon temple. Now the temple is the centre of a huge archaeological reconstruction effort. Safety training means today’s Khmer construction workers are reclaiming this piece of their heritage without the dangers their ancestors faced.

Date issued: 05 February 2007 | Size/duration: 00:02:04 (3.7 MB)

Angkor. Capital of the Khmer Empire a thousand years ago and today a World Heritage Site. Among the magnificent stone Hindu and Buddhist temples is Baphuon, the so-called ‘tower of bronze’.

Decades of war, theft and interrupted restoration efforts left the temple in pieces – more than 300,000 stone blocks needed to be reassembled.

Pascal Royere, Head of the Baphuon Project, Ecole Française d’Extreme Orient

We are in front of a monument at the beginning of the 21st century and we are re-building it as it has been done during the 11th century but with modern techniques.

Construction remains one of the most hazardous occupations: worldwide 60,000 people are killed on construction sites each year.

Determined to prevent accidents at Baphuon, the restoration archaeologists teamed up with Cambodia’s national trade union federation for construction workers, to offer safety and health training.

Ken Chheng Lang, Vice-president, Cambodian Construction Workers Trade Union Federation

It is a program for health care, safety and hygiene at the workplace. Most of the workers here are farmers. Before the started working here they hadn’t been trained, or received much information.

The training programme was developed by the International Labour Organization.

Workers tour the site with a trainer and learn how to work safely at heights and handle machinery. They also learn how to negotiate for safe working conditions. At Baphuon this has brought an increase in inspections of scaffolding, and use of protective equipment.

Construction worker

I hope I can use these skills to teach other people who have not attended the course here and at my other work places.

So far more than 500 construction workers throughout Cambodia have benefited from the training. At Baphuon temple, workers proudly follow in the footsteps of the ancient Khmer craftsmen. A thousand years later, they are taking each step more safely.