PHNOM PENH, Dec.5 (Xinhua) -- The number of visitors to Preah Vihear temple, a World Heritage Site, had declined 28 percent year- on-year in the first eleven months this year, according to the statistics provided to Xinhua by the Preah Vihear provincial tourism department on Monday.
The department recorded a total of 49,740 tourists to the temple from January to November this year, dropped by 28 percent from 69,230 visitors in the same period last year.
The decline was in the number of domestic visitors only--some 47,160 Cambodians visited the temple during the period, 30 percent decrease from 67,370 in the same period last year, whilst the number of foreign tourists to the site was up 39 percent to 2,580 from 1,860.
"As a whole the number of visitors is declined due to the armed clashes between Cambodian and Thai troops in February and April at the temple, so the number of tourists went down in the first half of this year," said the department's chief Kong Vibol. "But since July up to now, visitors are on the rise."
He explained that the rise in foreign tourists to the site was that those foreigners were diplomats, observers, journalists, researchers.. who wanted to see the real situation after the clashes.
"Now, everything is going well, no more clashes. We believe that more and more tourists will see the site in years to come," he said, adding that Preah Vihear temple will be the country's second largest cultural tourism destination after Angkor Wat temples in the future.
Preah Vihear, a Hindu temple, is located on the top of a 525- meter cliff in the Dangrek Mountains, about 500 kilometers northwest of the Cambodian capital.
Cambodia and Thailand have had sporadic border conflicts over territorial dispute near Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple since the UNESCO listed the temple as a World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008.
However, the military tension has eased since the Pheu Thai Party, led by ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's youngest sister Yingluck Shinawatra, won a landslide victory in the general elections in July and the International Court of Justice on July 18 ordered Cambodian and Thai troops to pull back from the provisional demilitarized zone (PDZ) of about 17 kilometers around the temple.
So far, both sides' troops have not been withdrawn from the PDZ. The two countries' defense ministers--Tea Banh of Cambodia and Yuthasak Sasiprapa of Thailand--will meet each other in the fourth week of this month in Phnom Penh to discuss the withdrawals.