Some 1,500 international delegates and government officials from more than 120 countries gathered in Phnom Penh’s Peace Palace yesterday for the launch of the UNESCO 37th World Heritage Committee meetings.
At last night’s opening ceremony, Prime Minister Hun Sen welcomed the attendees and stressed Cambodia’s commitment to preserving its heritage sites, even in the wake of booming tourism. He also offered especial thanks to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, which last week returned to Cambodia a pair of looted 10th-century statues, in a rare act of voluntary repatriation.
From June 16 to 27, committee chair Cambodia and the 20 other current committee member states will select about 15 new UNESCO World Heritage Sites from a list of 31 candidates, spokesman Roni Amelan said at a press conference yesterday.
Nominees recommended to join the current 962 World Heritage sites include China’s Tianshan Mountains, Italy’s Mount Etna, Japan’s Mount Fuji, North Korea’s Kaesong (capital of the medieval Koryo Dynasty), and the historic city centre of Agadez in Niger.
Ek Tha, spokesman for the meetings as well as for the Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit, said that as chair of the meetings, Cambodia had not nominated any of its own sites for inscription.
“We wanted to show the national and international community that we are neutral” and that Cambodia is “playing a greater role at the global level by bringing together the cultural experts and policy makers to protect and preserve the cultural and natural heritage worldwide,” Tha said.