The International Coordinating Committee of Angkor moved in a new direction last week with its mandate expanding beyond the Angkor Archeological Park to embrace the development of the whole Siem Reap region.
During a two-day meeting in Siem Reap on Feb 9 and 10, about 300 representatives from the Cambodian government and international organizations linked Angkor to the fight against poverty and long-term development in Siem Reap province.
The meeting was scheduled to be the annual meeting of the ICC’s Technical Committee, at which conservation teams were to discuss the work at Angkor.
But the first ICC gathering since the Paris conference in November—where 36 countries and 20 international organizations mapped out directions for the next 10 years of work at Angkor —turned into one of the ICC’s largest gatherings ever.
In addition to Cambodian and foreign experts involved in monument restoration, participants included foreign ambassadors, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
French Ambassador Yvon Roe d’Albert, who co-chaired the opening session with Japanese Ambassador Fumiaki Takahashi, said he hoped to see the international cooperation already taking place on the site, which he called the “spirit of Angkor,” extend to regional efforts to meet the goals set in Paris of lasting development and ethical tourism.
The ICC ended up recommending the creation of an advisory committee to oversee development issues for the Siem Reap and Angkor region.
Cabinet Minister Sok An led the Cambodian delegation, which consisted of representatives from the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction; the Ministry of Interior; Siem Reap provincial officials; and the Apsara Authority, which manages the 401-square-km park.
Describing Angkor as the engine pulling Cambodia’s development train, Sok An announced the Apsara Authority now would be in charge of natural resource conservation in the Siem Reap and Angkor area.
At the Feb 6 Bayon Symposium organized by the Japanese Government Team for Safeguarding Angkor, experts had discussed the fact that temple conservation involved solving the water issues outside of the Angkor park region.
Sok An assured participants that illegal construction in the park would no longer be tolerated.
He also mentioned the state of Siem Reap river, which, in some parts, amounts to islands of rubbish over muddy waters. Sok An blamed the state of the river on the population boom in the Siem Reap area.
In restoration topics, the ICC recommended a study of Angkor Wat to coordinate the efforts of the numerous international teams working on the monuments.
“We are not in competition, we complement each other’s work,” said Azedine Beschaouch, scientific secretary for the ICC.
Projects were described during the meeting, including the Swiss government assisting Apsara in developing its Web site, efforts to keep the Angkor park free of rubbish, the ADB waste-water treatment plant, and a World Bank infrastructure program.
Polish Ambassador Kazimierz Duchowski also made an appeal to restore the wall painting at the Silver Pagoda in Phnom Penh, and German Ambassador Helmut Ohlraun asked for the ICC’s cooperation with an exhibition of Cambodian artifacts to be held in Berlin in 2006.
Following the meeting, Sok An led a delegation of international experts to the Angkor-era temple in Preah Vihear province, which the Cambodian government wants included on the World Heritage List.
Gaining a place on the list is based on review by an independent committee, said Beschaouch, a former committee chair of the World Heritage List who lobbied successfully in 1992 to put Angkor on the list.
Application to be included on the list involves a commitment by a country to maintain the monument, in addition to proving the temple’s importance as a World Heritage Site, Beschaouch said.
After the visit to Preah Vihear, experts volunteered to help Cambodia prepare its application to the list, which should be ready for submission within a couple of months, he said.