A rare bright spot in the Indochina war has been the seemingly charmed survival of Angkor Wat, the fabulous, vine-covered imperial ruins that are revered today as the centerpiece of ancient Cambodian culture. Even after a Viet Cong regiment and several Khmer Rouge (Cambodian Communist) battalions slipped into the undefended city 20 months ago, Angkor Wat seemed protected by a United Nations convention preserving national monuments from wartime damage. A French-sponsored team that had been meticulously restoring the city's 800-year-old bas-relief galleries, statues and fluted balustrades was permitted by the Communists to continue its work. The Cambodians decided not to...

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