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