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Culture dept aims to publish heritage site list

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Officials check artifacts at Wat Nuon Mony Ream, aka Wat Than, in Phnom Penh on January 11. MOCFA

Culture dept aims to publish heritage site list

The Phnom Penh Department of Culture and Fine Arts said that they will seek permission to print the compiled list of registered heritage buildings in the capital, both in the pagodas and in other locations.

The department said that copies of the document will be stored at the pagodas and other relevant institutions in order to ensure the preservation of heritage buildings by requiring that the list be checked before any buildings are demolished or renovated.

The department director Chum Vuthy told The Post that the master list of registered heritage sites and buildings in Phnom Penh has already been completed. The department is seeking financial support and the permission of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts to publish the document, which is more than 200 pages in length and includes colour photographs.

“Once it is printed, it will be placed at all pagodas and other institutions in order for them to refer to it, especially for the ministry and department of cults and religion,” he said.

He added that in addition to compiling this document, the library office and heritage office under the department had also visited and documented artwork located near heritage sites and pagodas in an effort to document and preserve all of it.

“We started by checking old pagodas first. This is actually our second round of checks at the pagodas to see what is still available at each pagoda. In this second round, we went into detail about the heritage objects located at the pagodas, not just the old architecture,” he said.

Asked whether this work came only after the recent destruction of heritage buildings at Wat Ounalom, Vuthy said: “Our current work is not directly linked to that recent destruction. We actually had this plan in place long ago, but we had not fully implemented it due to a shortage of human resources that made the work quite slow.”

He added that attention to detail was important when examining each heritage object and they must follow technical rules in place for this field, which contributed to the slow pace.

Some people, including Buddhist monks, have complained that they faced problems when trying to carry out the development of the pagoda grounds including the necessary repair and upgrade of old facilities because the process of receiving permission from the ministry, which must inspect each location, could take years.

Uk Ngov is the head monk at Chen Dom Dek Cheung pagoda, where there is a temple that is a registered heritage building. He said the pagoda had requested permission to carry out repairs on the temple building many years ago, but the request had just now been approved.

“When a building or pagoda is registered as a national heritage site, it is hard for us to get approval for development or to maintain it. This makes me think that getting registered as heritage sites is just paying lip service to the idea of preserving these buildings rather than actually doing the repairs necessary to keep them standing,” he said.

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