Prime Minister Hun Sen reassured UNESCO and the International Coordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor (ICC-Angkor) that the heritage of Angkor is not affected by development, saying that Cambodia will follow the conditions under which the temple was classified. in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Hun Sen reassured members of the organizations after some of them expressed concern over a recent request from a company to dig a pond at a site near Angkor Wat.
“I want to make it clear to our partners such as UNESCO, France and Japan that they should not worry about the request of the company which was looking to dig a large pond, or other constructions of elsewhere. The government is now making it clear that such requests will not be approved,” he said at a groundbreaking ceremony for 38 new roads in Siem Reap province on April 4.
He added that Cambodia will follow the conditions set when Angkor Wat was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in December 1992, and that the construction of the 38 roads did not cause any impact on the temple.
The ICC-Angkor is an international mechanism for coordinating the assistance provided by different countries and organizations for the safeguarding and development of the historic site, which was created after the inscription of the temple on the UNESCO list.
Currently, France and Japan are the co-chairs of the mechanism, with host Cambodia. The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts said it would sign another agreement to continue participating in the mechanism for another 10 years.
Hun Sen’s remarks also come after real estate tycoon Kim Heang’s recent criticism of authorities for banning development such as high-rise buildings in Siem Reap province, which according to him, has kept real estate prices low in the province.
“I think what he said was wrong,” the prime minister said of Heang’s remarks. “We must not compare real estate prices in Siem Reap with other provinces, otherwise our Angkor Wat temple will be removed from the UNESCO World Heritage List.
“There are many places to explore for the real estate market, but don’t go near Angkor Wat. Estate agents should see the big picture,” he said.
Hun Sen noted that the removal of heritage sites from UNESCO’s list was “not unprecedented”, saying several developed countries have had their heritage sites removed from the list for violating technical conditions. He said Cambodia should not follow these examples, especially in the case of Angkor Wat and the Sambor Prei Kuk temple complex in neighboring Kampong Thom province.
He also called on the people of Siem Reap province to protect the temple inscription and respect the conditions set by UNESCO.
Sambo Manara, a history teacher, said he observed the government had “worked hard” on conserving the temple “long before” it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
He added that conserving the heritage of the temple is a duty that the government and Cambodians must fulfill for the future of the country.
“National heritage is the heritage of Cambodia’s history. It’s not for the economy and tourism, but for our history. If we forget it even for a short time, we could lose the legacy left to us by our ancestors,” he said.
The historian stressed the fact that real estate development in the province should be diversified and not concentrated around heritage sites. He said the ancient kings of Cambodia built their cities in different places to mobilize people to new parts of the country and expand the scope of national development.