Banteay Chhmar, meaning 'The citadel of the Cats' in Khmer, was built by the Khmer King Jayavarman VII (AD 1181-1219) at the height of the Angkorian empire in the 12th century. Better known temple complexes can be visited at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Angkor. However, it is Banteay Chhmar which remains still quietly hidden and now stands as one of the last great untouched Angkorian Temples. Forsaken for centuries after the collapse of the Khmer empire it was left to the ravishes of time, monsoon seasons and the advancing jungle to inflict their worst.In more recent history the Khmer Rouge - coming to power in Cambodia in 1975, holding their genocidal regime for nearly four years and being eventually ousted by military invasion from its neighbour Vietnam - retreated to encampments on both sides of the Thai border and made Banteay Chhmar one of its last strongholds until its eventual defeat and political assimilation after the death of its leader Pol Pot in 1998. Still, it was not until as recently as 2007 that land mines from the civil war years laid in the surrounding countryside and the temple itself were fully removed and the area became relatively safe to visit again.
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