The International Coordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor (ICC-Angkor) kicked off its two-day plenary sessions in Siem Reap on Tuesday to mark the 25th anniversary of its formation and its 31st technical session.
Prime Minister Hun Sen, who attended the opening session, said preserving cultural heritage should not be mixed with politics.
The high-level commemoration was also attended by Unesco director-general Audrey Azoulay, who was visiting Cambodia for the first time, and diplomats from Japan and France. King Norodom Sihamoni was scheduled to close the session.
Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona opened the session saying: “Now, Angkor World Heritage doesn’t face insecurity, temple collapses, or looting of antiquities.
“But we meet other challenges such as climate change, environmental pollution, new habitation in the Angkor protected area, management of tourist flow and so forth that need solutions and preventative measures for now and the future.”
Azoulay said: “This success comes through international cooperation with experts from France, Japan, Unesco and the Royal Government of Cambodia, represented by the Apsara Authority.”
“We need to control the flow of tourists through digital means. Unesco will fully cooperate to ensure Angkor doesn’t become a victim of our success in the future. What we are doing here now represents our success.”
In his remarks, Hun Sen said the success of the ICC-Angkor in preserving world heritage comes at a time when the Kingdom is preparing to celebrate the 40th anniversary of national liberation from the Pol Pot regime, and the 20th anniversary of his win-win policy to bring peace to Cambodia.
“This achievement cannot be separated from the peace and political stability that enables Cambodia to continue preserving and developing its cultural heritage, sustain its social and national economic development and be equal at regional and international levels,” Hun Sen said.
He said Cambodian temples were subject to political sanctions from the international community before the Kingdom achieved peace.
“Cultural heritage in all countries should not be mixed with political matters,” said the prime minister.
“This is the lesson for the UN and others – that they must not use sanctions which affect cultural heritage,” he said.
Hun Sen said that in the effort to preserve the Angkor area and meet Unesco’s requirements, his government had relocated people who had settled in the Angkor area.
“Before Angkor could be listed on the world heritage list, there were conditions we needed to follow. For example, one requirement is not permitting settlement in the area,’” he said.
The prime minister said this becomes a problem for Cambodia during elections when some political parties encourage people to settle in the Angkor area – leaving the government no option but to make those residents relocate.
“This is why they accuse my government of [being a] dictatorship, violating human rights and housing rights. But they don’t know the truth.”
Hun Sen requested development partners, foreign countries and international communities continue to support the Kingdom with technical, financial and human resources.