Prime Minister Hun Sen dedicated a training center Monday that will be used to teach University of Fine Arts graduates how to restore temples and prevent looting. In remarks broadcast on Apsara radio, the premier said Cambodians who take advantage of the lucrative art market to pillage historical sites in the country are traitors to their people. Looters taking advantage of three decades of political instability have nearly destroyed Cambodian culture, he said.
“A number of offenders have taken the chance to pillage national artifacts to export them overseas,” Hun Sen said.
“Cambodian culture is the identity and soul of the Cambodian people,” he said.
Beyond the cultural degradation that looting leads to, it also undermines the tourism industry, and therefore steals jobs from Cambodians, the premier said.
The new offices were built by the Japanese Government Team for the Safeguarding of Angkor, Angkor Conservation administrator Keo Saravuth said.
The building was designed to resemble the Sambo Prey Koub temple in Kompong Thom province. The towering 7th-century temple was a center of study during the Angkor period.
In trying to protect national culture, the Council of Ministers last week adopted three subdecrees to provide protection to several national heritage sites, Hun Sen said.
The actions are designed to conserve the forest and wildlife in Mondolkiri and Preah Vihear provinces, and will protect forests in the Cardamom mountain range in Koh Kong, Pursat and Kompong Speu provinces, Hun Sen said.