Lawyers from the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts are fast-tracking the process of preparing a legal complaint against Think Biotech (Cambodia) for allegedly clearing forest land and causing damage to the Leav Chom and Trapeang Krabao temples in Kratie province.

The Post reported earlier that the ancient temples – in Achen village of Sambor district’s Kampong Cham commune – were damaged while the company was responsible for the forest they were located in.

Ouk Sokha, head of the ministry’s General Department of Heritage, told The Post on February 23 that the ministry’s lawyers and heritage specialists had met to review the content of the complaint.

The complaint asked that the court apportion full responsibility for the destruction of the ancient temples to the company.

“Our team is still working together to ensure that our case is airtight. When our review of the complaint is complete, it will be submitted to the culture minister for final review. As soon as it is approved, we will file it with the court,” he said.

“In a case like this, the ministry must take action. We are giving it our utmost attention, but we cannot rush such an important case. We need to make sure we get everything right.”

Provincial culture department director Tep Veasna told The Post on February 23 that after hearing about the allegation, he had dispatched a team to the scene. They confirmed the damage and collected the remaining sculptures for preservation at a local museum.

“In addition to collecting evidence and taking photographs of the ruins, our team – working alongside provincial authorities – instructed the company to plant posts and demarcate boundaries around the nearly 1ha of land which houses the temples. We inspect them regularly to prevent any other form of vandalism,” he said.

Veasna added that the Leav Chom temple – one of the oldest in the country – was built in the 7th century, known as the Chenla era. The temple, dedicated to Brahminism, was made of clay and stone.

Think Biotech (Cambodia) director Lu Chu Chang could not be reached for comment.

The provincial administration reported that the company had been granted an investment license to develop a forest product processing plant and forest rehabilitation stations on more than 30,000ha of land in Kratie province’s Sambor district and Stung Treng province’s Siem Bok district.