Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - New Unesco envoy mends govt fences

New Unesco envoy mends govt fences

New Unesco envoy mends govt fences

U NESCO's new Special Representative, Khamliène Nhouy-vanisvong, has ushered in a new era in the organization's relationship with the Royal Government.

"We are here to listen to what the government needs us to do and to translate their wishes into actions," he says. "We can give them the right information and correct directives. We have no opinion. Even if we are competent, the point is that we here to help them."

Disagreements with the government precipitated the departure of former representative, Richard Engelhardt, and Nhouyvanisvong arrived from Unesco's Paris headquarters on May 29 to replace him. His initial task was to heal the breach and to expand Unesco's program. "It was a diplomatic move," explains Nhouyvanisvong, who has worked with Unesco since 1961. "We needed a new momentum."

Friction with the Minister of State HE Vann Molyvann had almost resulted in the closure of Unesco's office in Cambodia. "We invited him [Molyvann] to Paris," says Nhouyvanisvong, who was then Acting Assistant Director-General for External Relations. "We want cooperation, we told him, not two parallel authorities. It was felt that the time had come to change leadership, change the programme, diversify activities."

Nhouyvanisvong's new role is enhanced by his being Laotian, a country historically cooperative with Cambodia. "Vann Molyvann loves my country. He was attached to the Ministry of Public Works and if he had not come back here, he would have retired to Laos. I am accepted."

With an MA in Education from Stanford, Nhouyvanisvong, 60, plans to develop Unesco's learning centers during his two years in office. "We have identified 63 subjects for education. We have to help the Minister of Education to manage, plan, collect data, do school mapping and collect statistics."

Illiteracy is the most important issue, he believes. "Sixty-four percent of the population is illiterate, and of that, 70 percent is female," he claims. He hopes to reform the higher education system, teach science and maths at secondary level, and create distance learning programs for rural communities. Unesco has three learning centers; at Battambang and Siem Reap, where handicrafts, such as silkweaving, dance and teacher training, are promoted. There is also a multipurpose centre at Udong.

Unesco is building a floating school on two boats on the Tonle Sap, one for handicrafts and one a mobile library, at a cost of $17,000 each. "We teach communities to take care of themselves. When our work is done, we will leave."

Another priority for Nhouyvanisvong is the nomination of the Tonle Sap as a World Heritage Site. "The Tonle Sap is the life of these people. We estimate that 10 species of fish have already disappeared during the past 15 years. We must help the government to protect it whether it is listed or not."

At the national level, Nhouyvanisvong is planning an authority, called Apsara, for the preservation of the Angkor monuments, by the end of the year. "It will take decisions on all activities. Angkor is not only a place to preserve and protect, but a place of worship. It is also a tourist place to regenerate the economy."

The government wants Siem Reap become an art city, removing the airport from its proximity to Angkor. There will be an Angkor Park Management System to cope with a million visitors a year. "We want to prevent tourists from climbing on fragile monuments," he says. Parking will be outside the site, with other facilities. A circuit around Angkor Thom will be negotiated via non-polluting transport, such as a minitrain. "We have to be pragmatic," he declares, "it has to be income-generating."

He hopes to launch an international campaign to save Angkor. Some $10 million has been pledged to Unesco by Japan, of which $3 million is available for 1994, with spending on Angkor a priority.

"But we need $15 million a year," he admits.

MOST VIEWED

  • Proof giants walked among us humans?

    For years a debate has waged about whether certain bas relief carvings at the 12th-century To Prohm Temple, one of the most popular attractions at the Angkor Wat Temple Complex in Siem Reap province, depicted dinosaurs or some rather less exotic and more contemporary animal,

  • Japan bank buys major stake in ANZ Royal Bank

    Japan's largest bank acquired more than half of ANZ’s shares in Cambodia on Thursday, according to a statement from Kith Meng’s Royal Group. Japan's JTrust Bank, announced that they had acquired a 55% of stake in ANZ Royal Bank. According to a Royal Group

  • Long way to go before Cambodia gets a ‘smart city’

    Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Battambang will struggle to attain smart city status without adopting far reaching master plans, according to officials tasked with implementing the program. The brainchild of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), the smart city program seeks to link up

  • China-Cambodia tourism forum held

    The Cambodian tourism sector must be prepared to welcome a growing number of Chinese tourists, as they lead the globe in the number of outbound travellers and were responsible for the most visitors to the Kingdom last year, the country’s tourism minister said on