Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona touted the “many achievements” the ministry had made in 2022, saying those are the model for the 1,867 priority work items established for 2023.

Sackona was addressing a two-day annual meeting to review the ministry’s working outcomes for 2022 and to outline the working direction for 2023.

“I would also like to emphasise that the planned 1,867 activities do not include the work direction for the key working groups, established as necessary by the ministry, especially the public financial management reform, the sub-national democratic reform and the public administration reform working groups.

“At the same time, the ministry also has a strategy to support and cooperate with local and international partners. Therefore, we can expect that the ministry’s workload in 2023 will increase beyond the presently planned number of activities,” she said.

As this year’s pandemic situation is calm and stable, the ministry is optimistic that it will be able to achieve its working plan, even though it may have more to do than the planned 1,867 items.

According to the culture ministry, the priority action plan for this year includes organising and co-organising a number of major events, such as National Culture Day – which will bring together 4,000 artists to meet with Prime Minister Hun Sen in March; Angkor Sangkran or Khmer New Year, which takes place every April; the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games; and the proposed nomination of Koh Ker as a World Heritage Site.

Meas Ny, a social development researcher, said that he recognised many of the ministry’s successful activities such as organising cultural events and national festivals and the registration of cultural assets over the past year.

However, he said that in 2022, the ministry was rightly criticised for failing to protect national heritage buildings, like the destruction of the Buddhist dormitories at Wat Ounalom, which were on the protected list, and the demolition of French colonial-era stupas at Wat Botum Vatey.

“Setting out next year’s working scope is normal for the government and for all ministries; however, it is important to focus on availability of resources,” he said.

Ny said he would like to see the government strengthen the activities and effectiveness of its inspection teams for monitoring the implementation of the plans at each ministry in order to reflect the actual performance.