Prime Minister Hun Sen announced on Thursday that buildings over 50 years old must be preserved for future generations and called for a French colonial-era bridge in Battambang to be saved from demolition.
He made the remarks at the graduation ceremony for 2,790 Royal University of Law and Economics students at the National Institute of Education on Thursday.
“It was a surprise that there were plans to demolish the French colonial-era bridge in Battambang. It was big on social media. I would like to state that we must try to preserve what has been standing for more than 50 years.
“This is an achievement, so why should they be demolished? We must try to preserve and repair such buildings, and do whatever we can to save them,” Hun Sen said.
On December 13, the Battambang provincial administration suspended traffic on the bridge over the Sangkae River, saying it could no longer be used as it was cracked and unsafe.
On December 18, Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona sent a letter objecting to the provincial administration’s plans to demolish the bridge in Battambang town’s Svay Por commune. After a backlash, the administration decided to keep the bridge.
“The Battambang provincial authorities just said that to avoid danger to residents, it must do whatever it could to stop people using the unsafe bridge. But instead of replacing it, we should build a new bridge nearby,” Hun Sen said.
The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts said the bridge had been built during the French colonial period and was the only remnant of its kind in Battambang from that time which carries such historical, architectural, urban and environmental value.
During its 103 years, it had been used by heavy vehicles, with tanks even crossing it during the civil war, leading to its state of disrepair.
Nara Institute archaeologist Sok Keo Sovannara told The Post on Thursday that while many French colonial-era buildings had been preserved – with most in Phnom Penh, Battambang and Siem Reap – many had also been demolished.
He said Cambodia had to remember and learn from that period, and future generations would now be able to see part of its legacy and understand the motivations behind colonialism.
The archaeologist hailed the preservation of the bridge in Battambang as its construction had been the first to differ from the methods used during the Angkor period. The bridge had been constructed with what was then sophisticated technology.
“It is very good that Prime Minister Hun Sen has recommended that buildings over 50 years old should be preserved because in previous years we lost many historical buildings in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Battambang,” Keo Sovannara said.