The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration has decided to establish a working group to inspect and evaluate old buildings in all districts to strengthen the mechanism for protection and maintenance of structures and as a basis for applying for registration as a heritage building to the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts.

This decision was made during an online meeting chaired by municipal governor Khuong Sreng on measures to prevent the destruction of heritage buildings in the capital on October 22.

“We will set up a team to inspect and compile statistics on all heritage buildings in Phnom Penh. Later, we will hand over the list to all district administrations for further management. This way, we can keep heritage buildings alive,” Sreng said.

The move came after Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a circular on October 12 aiming to prevent the destruction and remodelling of heritage buildings, altering or damaging of religious structures, public and private buildings, ancient villages and houses.

Culture ministry spokesman Long Bunna Sireyvath said on October 24 that the government’s circular was an additional measure to fill in some gaps. He said that sometimes owners of old buildings other than pagodas, which are under the ministry’s jurisdiction, may destroy those buildings through modifications or development as they do not understand their value.

Bunna Sireyvath said the circular is another way to enforce conservation, especially in the capital and some certain provinces such in Battambang, where there are ancient houses. Kratie province also has houses from a previous era.

“Because those buildings belong to citizens, we call for cooperation from the owners and authorities when they want to alter the appearance of buildings. They need to inform the culture ministry, which is responsible for the protection of national heritage,” he said.

UNESCO has lauded the government for issuing the circular to prevent the destruction of heritage buildings in Cambodia in a bid to promote conservation and sustainable development.

“Urban heritage, including its tangible and intangible components, constitutes a key resource in enhancing the liveability and resilience of urban areas, and fosters economic development and social cohesion in a changing environment,” it said in a press statement on October 15.