The Japanese government has provided more than $29 million over the last 28 years for the Bayon Temple Conservation project. In 2024, the project is scheduled to mark its 30th anniversary.

Since 1994, Japan has provided a total of $28,594,275 for the Bayon project. Recently, additional funding of $520,847 was provided to purchase vehicles, heavy machinery and equipment for central spire structure stabilisation work of the temple, according to the Japanese embassy in Phnom Penh.

Bayon is one of the most important temples in the Angkor complex, and built by King Jayavarman VII, who ruled the Khmer Empire from 1181-1218. It is located within the walls of Angkor Thom, which was originally built as a Buddhist temple.

For the last 28 years, UNESCO has been working closely with the Japan-Apsara Safeguarding Angkor (JASA), – made up of technical experts from Waseda University in Japan and led by Takeshi Nakagawa, an honorary professor of the university – and the APSARA National Authority (ANA).

Archaeological work, restoration and conservation efforts at Bayon Temple are integrated through the Japanese Funds-in-Trust for the Preservation of the World Cultural Heritage.

“With UNESCO’s technical assistance, this project has played an important role in building the capacity of Cambodian staff and experts in the field of cultural heritage conservation by promoting transfer of skills between Japanese and the ANA working groups to address the challenges encountered at Bayon Temple and other archeological sites throughout Cambodia,” said the December 16 press release.

The project will strengthen the capacity of Cambodian experts so they can take full control of the conservation and restoration of Bayon in the future and apply the skills gained in the conservation of others in the Angkor Park and throughout Cambodia.

The main achievements of this project include development of a master plan for Bayon Temple, along with renovations on its north and south libraries as well as several spires and galleries, in addition to restorations on the Prasat Suor Prat temples and the north library in the outer perimeter of Angkor Wat.

More than 1,500 Japanese specialists have worked in Cambodia since 1994, said the release.

The project is divided into six phases. The results of a series of scientific research and evaluations in phases I to V show that balancing the central spire requires extensive technical intervention.

Phase VI focuses on essential interventions to stabilise the central tower as well as try to identify appropriate conservation methods for the carved bas reliefs of the inner gallery. In addition, work will be carried out to highlight the aesthetic features of the northern section of Bayon’s eastern front, with a focus on Spire 69.

According to the embassy, the Bayon project’s 30th anniversary will be marked by the International Coordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor (ICC-Angkor) with an exhibition that will celebrate the achievements of the JASA team over the past 30 years.