Cambodia's first national museum showcasing the Kingdom’s economic and financial evolution was inaugurated on Monday, recounting the history of its money and economy from the first century to the present day.

Commissioned by the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC), it is called the Preah Srey Icanavarman Museum, with the name chosen by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

King Icanavarman – who reigned from 616 to 637 – is a hero of the Chenla kingdom which would later become the Khmer Empire. He took Isanapura – present day Sambor Prei Kuk in Kampong Thom province – and issued the first gold coin to demonstrate his glory and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of his Kingdom, NBC governor Chea Chanto said.

Chanto said the museum’s exhibits consist of 12 sections. Sections one to eight exhibit historical events related to currency and the economy since the first century Funan era to today. Sections nine to 12 illustrate the role of the monetary and banking systems in social and economic development. Each section has former coins and notes on display.

“The economic and monetary museum will play a major role in understanding the history of Cambodian currency and economics, which do not have much detailed historical documentation,” Chanto said.

He added that visitors will learn about the development of the riel and be able to view currency from different Cambodian eras on display.

The Preah Srey Icanavarman Museum is housed in a two-storey building located next to the Cambodia Securities Exchange headquarters in Daun Penh district’s Wat Phnom commune in Phnom Penh. Funding costs for the two-storey museum were not disclosed.

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony on Monday, Prime Minister Hun Sen highlighted the important role of the national currency in economic development and recalled historical currency use in Cambodia.

During its peak from the Funan era to the Angkor empire, Cambodia used currency when trading with other nations but did not issue its own national currency, the prime minister said. It was in the early 16th century that King Srey Chetha Thireach Rama Thepday – known as Sdach Korn – issued the Kingdom’s first ever national currency to strengthen the economy, politics and national territory.

He added that the Kingdom had been through many periods when its currency had been negatively impacted. When the Kingdom fell to the Khmer Rouge in 1975, for example, the riel, the economic system and private property were abolished.

“Cambodia’s monetary history and its relationship with social-economic development [play an important role] in guaranteeing national sovereignty and territorial integrity, especially in promoting sustainable national economic growth,” Hun Sen said.

He urged NBC officials and relevant stakeholders to continue to preserve the riel’s legacy and learn from the museum’s exhibitions to enhance Cambodians’ understanding of their currency’s history and promote its use.