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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Govt seeks help for shipwreck

Govt seeks help for shipwreck

Sunken ship found off Koh Kong languishes on sea bed

THE government is seeking foreign partners to excavate the centuries-old shipwreck discovered in 2006 off the coast of Koh Kong province, officials say.

"We do not have the budget, we lack the technical expertise and we do not have trained [divers]," Khim Sarith, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts and chairman of the commission for preserving the sunken ship, told the Post on Monday.

He added that the government wishes to remove the shipwreck's remaining pottery from the seabed at Koh Kong to preserve it, but was hampered by a lack of resources.

"The pottery is being kept in a warehouse in Koh Kong province," he said, adding that the government had plans to build a museum to display the find.

Initially working with a Russian dive team, the government broke off cooperation in 2007 and began negotiating with Beijing about possible recovery efforts. The negotiations were unsuccessful - hence, the new appeal for partners, Khim Sarith said.

The shipwreck, which is believed to be a 14th- or 15thcentury Chinese trading junk laden with ancient oriental pottery and artifacts, was found in February 2006 about 20 kilometres off the coast of Koh Sdech, after a local fishing fleet reported that looters were plundering the site with makeshift diving equipment.

Two Russian-led dives yielded some 900 pieces of pottery. Koh Kong casino tycoon Ly Yong Phat funded one of the dives.

Bin Sam Ol, deputy governor of Koh Kong province, said that, in a bid to prevent looting, the navy is guarding the area near the shipwreck around the clock and the local fishermen are prohibited from fishing in the area.

Hab Touch, director of the National Museum, said that they have sent two museum officials to train in underwater archeology in Australia. "It is not easy to take something from under water like it is to excavate something from the ground," Hab Touch said. "It is very important for us and a new start for Cambodia." 

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