In the face of the worldwide destruction of ancient monuments by terror groups such as the Islamic State, representatives from countries and preservation organisations across the globe gathered in Siem Reap yesterday to discuss the preservation of Cambodia’s most important tourist attraction.
The 24th technical session meeting of the International Coordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor (ICC-Angkor) was organised by UNESCO and co-chaired by Japan and France.
It facilitates the exchange of ideas on restoration, archaeological research, tourism and sustainable development methods for the 12th-century Angkor Wat temple complex, recently voted as the number one traveller’s choice landmark in the world by readers of travel site Trip Advisor.
Long Kosal, a spokesman for the Apsara Authority, which oversees the site, told reporters that a visitor code of conduct and other matters related to restoration and conservation at the Angkor Archaeological Park will be discussed at the meeting. Phnom Kulen National Park will also be touched on as well.
“We have many topics to discuss on restoration, archaeological research and sustainable development in Angkor Park,” he explained.
Another topic a bit further afield was the protection of heritage sites from terrorists, which was reportedly raised by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, who attended the meeting.
“Deputy Prime Minister Sok An said he was concerned about IS, as we have seen some World Heritage sites have been destroyed by extremists,” Kosal said. “He hopes that they [IS] will leave those World Heritage sites untouched.”
Kosal noted that the Taliban in 2001 destroyed two ancient Buddha statues in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Valley.
The meeting is also expected to deal with Angkor's proposed visitor code of conduct, which details what tourists are and are not permitted to do once on the park’s grounds. The Apsara Authority drafted the rules after several recent highly publicised incidents of tourists taking nude photos at the ancient structures.
Jay Raman, spokesman for the US Embassy, which participated in the meeting, said the US was pleased to keep abreast of “developments related to the safeguarding and development of this extraordinary cultural patrimony”.
Meanwhile, Cambodia has recently expressed concern over a proposed project in Bihar, India, which aims to overtake Angkor Wat as the largest Hindu temple on earth while replicating the Cambodian temple’s structure and possibly taking away some of its tourist revenue.
According to international media outlets, Hun Han, acting Cambodian ambassador to India, requested a “status report” on the temple to make sure it’s not an Angkor Wat replica.