The Ministry of Culture and Fine Art has requested cooperation from the Ministry of Cult and Religion in preventing the construction or demolition of temples or structures on potentially historic or archaeological sites.

To this end, the culture ministry suggested that the latter instruct its municipal and provincial departments across the country to inform the culture ministry so that it can send experts for evaluation before a construction or demolition takes place.

In her February 4 letter to religion minister Chhit Sokhon, culture minister Phoeurng Sackona said the government has already issued a circular on the “prohibition of exploration and vandalising of ancient artifacts” instructing the ministries of National Defence and Interior and the Apsara National Authority (ANA) to collaborate.

Sackona said the culture and religion ministries have also issued an inter-ministerial circular on an “absolute ban on all acts of vandalism leading to the loss, damage or transformation of ancient buildings, paintings and artefacts in pagodas in Cambodia”.

But, she said, the culture ministry has been receiving announcement from religion departments about dismantling and building of new temples in pagodas without first informing its specialist officials.

Culture ministry spokesman Long Ponnasirivath said that in the past both ministries have had good cooperation and that the Supreme Patriarch has issued an order to all pagodas to cooperate so that all of the buildings and items there are registered in order to protect the national heritage.

“As per usual the culture ministry just issued a letter to them as a reminder to cooperate, and in the past the religion ministry has always cooperated for the most part,” he said.

Religion ministry spokesman Seng Somony said the ministry had already received letters from the culture ministry regarding the request for cooperation.

He said that with religious buildings or other buildings that are 50 to 100 years or more, the culture ministry is obligated by law to inspect any demolition or construction and with the demolition of old Buddhist temples there are even stricter procedures for approval one must go through.