Prime Minister Hun Sen presided over the May 24 inauguration of the new Chroy Changvar campus of the Royal University of Fine Arts, and the graduation of 88 students.

He recalled how the university reopened after the January 7, 1979 liberation of the Kingdom, and began to provide the training which would lead to the survival of many unique aspects of Khmer culture.

“Everything we have we owe to peace. Without it, we would still be living in fear of bullets and bombs. No matter the cost, we must preserve the precious peace, because the alternative would be to feel regret after it has been lost,” he told the assembled students.

He also warned them of the importance of protecting the precious culture that had been left to them by previous generations.

“Please be careful. In the next 50 or 100 years, the following generations may not understand the rules and forms of traditional art. I suggest that you take pains to preserve the forms that were designed by our ancestors, especially when it comes to statues. If we don’t construct them in the right way, we have no way of knowing what they will look like in the future,” he said.

“Cultural aggression, I do not believe will occur, because I cannot imagine anyone invading the Kingdom. What scares me is the creeping voluntary acceptance of a culture that will dilute our own. That is what we must be wary of,” he added.

He concluded that the government intended to commit between two and four per cent of the vocational training it intends to provide to 1.5 million people next year to the transfer of ancestral skills.

Prime Minister Hun Sen gazes at a portrait of himself painted by Royal University of Fine Arts students, on May 24 during the inauguration of a university building in the capital's Chroy Changvar district. SPM

Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona also addressed the inauguration, noting that the fine art university is the only higher education institute that falls under her ministry.

“The university plays an active role in human resources training in the arts and culture, which is a large part of our national identity,” she said.

She noted that the prime minister had seen a steady increase in the demand for study in the field of arts and culture. Through the Phnom Penh Municipal Hall, the ministry had been provided with a land concession of four hectares in Chroy Changvar district’s Preak Leap commune.

“More than three hectares was used for the construction of the new campus. The remaining land will be used for the construction of a cultural centre,” said Sackona.

“We broke ground in May 2017, and completed the work in May last year, at a total cost to the government of $12 million,” she added.

The four-storey building has a total area of 47,000sq m, with underground parking for 204 cars and 500 motorcycles.

“The cultural centre, which will be known as the Cambodia-Korea Arts Training Centre, will be built with cooperation of the South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, at a cost of approximately $5.3 million,” added Sackona.

“The centre will focus on music, dance and visual arts. Construction will begin in the near future, and is scheduled to be completed in 2024,” she added.

At present, the fine arts university employs a total of 331 staff across five faculties. There were 2,685 students enrolled for the 2022-2023 academic year.