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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Concrete steps taken to save Angkor

Concrete steps taken to save Angkor

The future of Angkor Wat recently debated in Tokyo resulted in some financial pledges

and an agreement to form a coordinating committee to be co-chaired by France and

Japan.

The Inter-Governmental Conference on the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic

Site of Angkor took place on October 12 and 13 and involved delegates from 30 countries

and seven inter-governmental organizations.

Several participants made contributions but the only details forthcoming were that

France and Japan pledged $10 million each and Thailand $1.2 million.

Convened by France and Japan, the Tokyo Declaration outlined 13 points including

giving ultimate control to the Cambodian government, whose people have "sovereignty

over and primary responsibility for the safeguarding and development of the historic

area of Angkor".

A high profile 12-member delegation representing the Cambodian government was led

by State Minister Van Moly Vann who last month temporarily shut down the UNESCO office

in Siem Riep.

That event has been attributed to "misunderstandings" and in Tokyo UNESCO

was given the role of secretariat to the new committee stemming from its role as

secretariat of the conference.

The French and Japanese ambassadors to Cambodia will chair the committee which will

coordinate all assistance offered and will "ensure the consistency of the different

projects, and define, when necessary, technical and financial standards".

His Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk was proposed as the honorary president of the committee

which will be made up of Cambodian representatives and officials from international

organizations.

No time scale was given for the committee's formation but a Cambodian delegate believed

it would be two to three months.

But it appears some decision-making may have to happen before then as the Cambodian

government is set to report to the World Heritage Committee by December.

A member of the UNESCO office in Phnom Penh said certain conditions were attached

to the Angkor site being granted World Heritage status.

Protection zones will have to be defined and the regions governing it established,

according to Cultural Program Officer Veronique Dauge.

UNESCO has been working on a zoning plan known as ZEMP, the Zoning and Environmental

Management Plan which took nearly a year to complete with the help of 25 experts

from 11 countries.

A key feature of ZEMP is the use of a state-of-the-art computer program, the Geographic

Integration System (GIS), which provides an easily accessible database of all aspects

of the 5,000 sq km site.

In Tokyo, UNESCO representative in Cambodia, Ricard Englehart, distributed as recently

made UNESCO video.

The video included guest appearances by archeologist and BLDP representative Son

Soubert, Culture Minister Nouth Narang, and Environment Minister Mok Mareth who all

attended the Tokyo conference.

Ms Dauge said UNESCO hoped the video gave "a good image on the interactive relationship

between the environment and the site" with the emphasis on "conservation

linked with development, not conservation versus development".

UNESCO Paris office presented a report along with the ZEMP plan and stressed the

immediate need for projects in areas such as water management, forestry, restoration

and archeology.

Some countries and organizations wanted to sponsor specific projects but as Culture

Minister Nouth Narang said, the Cambodian government must avoid having Angkor "cut

up like a cake".

To this end, at the beginning of November UNESCO is holding a tri-partite conference

with the Cambodian government and funding bodies such as the United Nations Development

Program (UNDP).

UNDP has funded most of the work at Ankgor since UNESCO became involved four years

ago at the request of King Sihanouk.

The tri-partite conference will see the official presentation of ZEMP and it is hoped

the conference will see a final document for presentation to the World Heritage Committee.

Environmental Planning Consultant Dr Jonathan Wager was responsible for drafting

ZEMP.

Speaking prior to the Tokyo conference, he was concerned about rivalries over Angkor

between Japan, France and UNESCO as well as within the Cambodian overnment.

But he thought the dominant theme in the Cambodian government was support of ZEMP.

Main points of the ZEMP draft plan include establishing a park management plan, or

at least a park agency, possibly with the help of the United States.

Details include development of visitor facilities, appropriate transport and access,

site, landscape and forestry management, training of guides, security and general

maintenance.

Sustainable rural development will be encouraged dependent on detailed studies on

water management, transport and road improvements and a development program for various

rural communities.

It is also proposed that the old part of Siem Riep town be declared an urban conservation

zone with planning restrictions, and that some of the area on the airport side be

declared an urban expansion zone.

The Tokyo Declaration noted and welcomed these provisions and stressed that international

cooperation in safeguarding and developing Angkor was important for the reconstruction

of Cambodia.

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