The first meeting of the International Coordinating Committee (ICC) set up to administer
the historic Angkor site took place from Dec. 21-22 in Phnom Penh.
The ICC is co-chaired by the Japanese and French Ambassadors with UNESCO acting as
It marks a switch in control of Angkor which began at a conference in Japan last
October when delegates adopted the "Tokyo Declaration".
The conference saw a move away from the zoning and environment management plan (ZEMP)
developed by UNESCO, towards greater involvement by France, Japan and the Cambodian
For the past four years UNESCO has been at the forefront of conserving Angkor after
responding to a request for help from King Sihanouk.
But when asked about the ICC meeting, a UNESCO spokeswoman advised the Post to contact
the French and Japanese embassies for a comment as UNESCO was just the secretariat.
At the meeting, the Cambodian government was represented by State Minister Vann Molyvann
who outlined the government's action plan and detailed areas requiring international
The minister has been involved in a power struggle with UNESCO and in the last few
months has twice temporarily closed the organization's office in Siem Reap, the home
of the Angkor site.
Vann Molyvann was known not to favor the ZEMP scheme and it appears his opinion has
A press release of the ICC meeting made no mention of ZEMP and instead spoke of the
"Plan of Action of the Royal Government of Cambodia".
It said Van Molyvann "presented the main projects for which the Royal Government
requires the assistance of the international community". Other delegates also
outlined their projects.
King Sihanouk sent a message to the committee from his hospital in Beijing.
In his letter, the King called for cooperation and said it was important the government
adopt a coherent conservation strategy before making any decision.
The ICC should "avoid dismembering Angkor by considering each monument as a
separate entity unrelated to the whole".
He said the UNESCO Conventions and Recommendations were a good basis for such a strategy.
Cambodia is a party to these agreements under the Venice Charter.
Demonstrating his concern, the King has appointed his official biographer Julio Jeldres
as the Royal Cabinet representative on the ICC.
The King stressed the importance of meeting the World Heritage Committee's December,
1994 deadline - a condition of Angkor being given world heritage status is the submission
of a detailed conservation plan.
The King said this requires establishing "precisely-defined zones of protection
around Angkor, large enough to ensure that the monuments, ancient public works and
underground archeological sites are protected from unregulated development."
He also praised the work of Ecole Francaise d'Extreme Orient (EFEO), involved with
Angkor for over 70 years.
King Sihanouk said training was vital to safeguarding Angkor and he expressed concern
that practical training for current students of the School of Fine Arts has been
He wanted greater emphasis on practical skills so that "a sufficient core of
Cambodian specialists can be built up over the quickest possible time period".
The King called on the government to reinstate training at the School of Fine Arts
and said site management training should also not be neglected.
Trafficking in cultural property looted from Angkor was a concern of the ICC and
King Sihanouk said despite strong measures taken by UNESCO and EFEO many stolen artifacts
were still being advertised for auction and private sale overseas.
At its meeting, the ICC examined ways to combat looting and illicit traffic in cultural
The ICC members are the signatories of the Tokyo Declaration who have contributed
money or expertise to Angkor.
A technical committee of embassy cultural representatives will meet three times a
year. NGOs involved with Angkor can attend as observers.
The Tokyo Declaration agreed the ICC should be informed of all work undertaken at
Angkor. At the December meeting the ICC decided that detailed studies of projects
have to be submitted to its technical committee, either directly or through UNESCO.