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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Khmer Studies gets institutional boost

Khmer Studies gets institutional boost


A NEW institute dedicated to research, teaching, publishing and public service is

taking root in Siem Reap which, according to some of its principles, will serve as

a valuable catalyst for the development and re-construction of Cambodia's higher

education system.

The recently renovated conference room, left, of the Center for Khmer Studies is open for business while the new library, right, awaits the collection of books to fill its shelves

Called the Center for Khmer Studies (CKS), the idea for a new institution arose out

of a workshop held in January 1999 attended by scholars and government officials

who, according to CKS literature, spent five days examining "ways to help raise

standards in higher education and research in Cambodia in the disciplines related

to the study of Khmer cultural heritage."

With initial support and encouragement from the New York-based World Monuments Fund,

CKS is now officially open, has six full-time staff, the makings of permanent facilities

including a library in Siem Reap town, an inaugural issue of a trilingual Khmer-French-English,

twice-yearly newsletter, and ambitious plans for the future.

"It's significant for Cambodia, to help Cambodia rebuild its higher education

system, a part of civil society building," said Philippe Peycam, CKS' first


"Great oaks from little acorns grow," added CKS Senior Advisor David Chandler,

the world-renowned Cambodia scholar, who with a three-year grant from the Henry Luce

Foundation will be spending three months annually at the Center working on a variety

of projects.

Both Peycam and Chandler emphasized that one of CKS's primary objectives will be

to encourage and involve both Cambodian institutions and scholars in the work of

the center.

"We don't aim to be a substitute for Cambodian institutions," said Peycam.

"We will be a partner, able to attract interest worldwide [in Khmer studies].

We also aim to allow Cambodians to be partners in the debate on Cambodia in Cambodia."

CKS in already working closely with the Ministries of Culture and Education, the

Royal University of Phnom Penh's Faculties of Archaeology and Architecture, the Royal

University of Fine Arts, and Apsara.

As part of the CKS's mandate to link existing foreign institutions with the Center's

work and other Cambodia-based institutions, relationships have been established with

UC Berkeley and Cornell University in the US, Thammasat and Chula-longkorn universities

in Thailand and the National University of Singapore.

A key objective of the Center will be to invite applications from Cambodian scholars

to undertake research at junior and senior levels, including advanced graduate studies

and post-doctoral investigations.

"If we don't empower Khmers in the field of Khmer studies, there is no point

to this place," said Chandler.

Chandler said that CKS will encourage studies in all topics except "development

and current politics" with emphasis on prehistory, Pre-Angkor-ean politics,

archaeology, architecture, and social-anthropology to name a few.

Two buildings have been secured in Siem Reap on the grounds of Wat Damnak.

One will serve as a conference center and the second as a library which will include

a reading room, a computer room and, eventually, an extensive collection of books,

theses and materials on all aspects of Khmer culture.

Funds have been raised to renovate the structures with work on both nearly complete.

CKS is well aware that any new institution seeking to link scholars from around the

globe will need to be plugged in fully to the worldwide web. However, poor communications

capabilities in Siem Reap have forced a temporary link-up via Cornell University's

cyber base.

Those interested in learning more about the new center can log on at:



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