Ministry Asks UN to Recognize Khmer Arts

The Ministry of Culture is set to send a list of traditional Khmer arts, including music, drama and literature, to Unesco in the hopes the arts will be granted “Master­piece of Humanity” status.

The ministry will also submit the Preah Vihear temple to be considered as a world heritage site, Undersecretary of State Chuch Phoeurn said Tuesday. The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is scheduled to hold a conference in September and will consider Cambodia’s requests.

The Ministry has assembled a list of many “intangible” Cambo­dian arts, such as drama and dance, and explained in detail the origins, history and function of each in Cambodia to “convince the world that those items belong to Cambodia,” he said.

“The neigh­boring countries always try to confuse the world that the Cambodian traditional culture belongs to their culture,” he said. “That is why we want the UN to recognize our culture so no nation can steal it.”

One reason the Ministry of Culture wants the Cambodian intangible arts to be officially acknowledged by Unesco is because of the confusion over Cambodian and Thai cultures, Chuch Phoeurn said.

“If there is no recognition from the world, the two countries will still have arguments over culture,” he said. “After the recognition, we will not be afraid when some countries claim that the abstract traditional culture belongs to them.”

But he also blamed Cambo­dians for not being well- inf­ormed about their own culture. “Cambo­dian people don’t read their own history and that is why they misunderstand the history,” he said. “The Ministry of Edu­cation should encourage the students to read more of their own history.”

If recognized by Unesco, the Cambodian arts will gain international attention and could be considered for future donor aid from Unesco or other NGOs, one Un­es­co official said Thursday.

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