Prime Minister Hun Sen has reassured UNESCO and the International Coordinating Committee for Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor ( ICC-Angkor) that the heritage of Angkor remains unaffected by development, saying that Cambodia will follow the conditions under which the temple was listed in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Hun Sen reassured the organisations’ members after some of them expressed concern at a recent request by a company to dig a pond at a site close to the Angkor Wat.

“I want to make it clear to our partners such as UNESCO, France and Japan that they should not be concerned about the request by the company that sought to dig a big pond, or other construction for that matter. The government makes it clear now that such requests will not be approved,” he said at a ceremony inaugurating 38 new roads in Siem Reap province on April 4.

He added that Cambodia will follow the conditions set when Angkor Wat was listed in the UNESCO World Heritage list in December 1992, and that the construction of the 38 roads did not lead to any impact on the temple.

The ICC-Angkor is an international coordinating mechanism for assistance provided by different countries and organisations for the safeguarding and development of the historic site, which was established after the temple was listed by UNESCO.

Currently, France and Japan are the co-chairs of the mechanism, along with host Cambodia. The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts said it would be signing another agreement to continue participating in the mechanism for another 10 years.

Hun Sen’s remarks also come after real estate tycoon Kim Heang’s recent criticism of authorities for banning development such as the construction of high-rise buildings in Siem Reap province, which he claimed had caused real estate prices to remain low in the province.

“I think what he said was wrong,” the premier said about Heang’s remarks. “We must not compare the real estate prices in Siem Reap with other provinces, otherwise our Angkor Wat temple will be delisted from the UNESCO World Heritage list.

“There are many places for the real estate market to explore, but don’t come close to Angkor Wat. Real estate people should look at the bigger picture,” he said.

Hun Sen noted that heritage sites being removed from the UNESCO list was “not unprecedented”, saying that several developed countries have had their heritage sites removed from the list for violating technical conditions. He said Cambodia must not follow those examples, especially in the case of Angkor Wat and Sambor Prei Kuk temple complex in neighbouring Kampong Thom province.

He also called on Siem Reap province locals to protect the temple’s listing and to follow the conditions set out by UNESCO.

Sambo Manara, a history professor, said he observed that the government had been “working hard” on conservation of the temple “long before” it was listed in the UNESCO World Heritage list.

He added that conservation of the temple’s heritage was a duty the government and Cambodians had to carry out for the future of the country.

“The national heritage is the legacy of Cambodia’s history. It is not for the sake of economy and tourism, but our history. If we forget about it even for a short time, we could lose the legacy left for us by our ancestors,” he said.

The historian highlighted the fact that real estate development in the province should be diversified and not congregated around heritage sites. He said former kings of Cambodia had built their cities in different locations so as to mobilise people to new parts of the country and to expand the scope of national development.