Cambodia’s cultural officials vowed to protect the country’s cultural heritage while working to alleviate poverty at the Ministry of Culture’s annual meeting last week.
More than 300 officials discussed ways to increase cultural activities in music, literature, dance, painting, sculpture, architecture and film.
As always, the problem is finding the money to do it, the officials said. They also discussed plans for National Cultural Day, to be celebrated with performances at the Bassac Theater on April 3.
Khun Samen, director of the National Museum, urged provincial officials to establish museums in each province to help educate Cambodians nationwide about their heritage.
“We should preserve all items, [whether from] India, Thailand, Laos or Burma, to learn about the lifestyle of Cambodians” as it relates to other cultures, he said.
Prince Sisowath Panara Sirivudh, the ministry’s secretary of state, said the government is committed to enforcing the copyright law and to “promote cultural and international exchanges.”
Cultural officials have complained that Cambodian artists are not motivated to create new works, such as music or movies, due to rampant piracy.
“Child of the Giant Snake,” the first new film produced in Cambodia since the end of the civil war, has already been widely copied, despite a tough new subdecree signed last September that sets fines of up to $500 per copy for illegal videos.
The popularity of “Child of the Giant Snake” has inspired officials to encourage other movie-makers.
Uk Socheat, undersecretary of state in charge of filming, said the ministry is working to promote all film-making.
“We are planning to find private partners, for both domestic and overseas productions, to provide training” for Cambodian technicians, he said. Cambodia has people with talent, he said, just not money.
The officials are also concerned about the loss of Cambodia’s traditional and colonial architecture, as more and more old buildings are “modernized” instead of being restored and preserved.
“Some old buildings near Wat Botum were destroyed,” said undersecretary of state Chuch Pheurn, “and the brand-new one [that replaced them] is not an improvement.”
He deplored the fact that only a few areas of historic buildings remain in Phnom Penh, like the neighborhood around the main post office. “But that is [under the control] of city hall, not the ministry,” he said.
The picturesque neighborhood near the post office, in fact, was the site of filming recently for “Beneath the Banyan Trees,” the movie written and directed by US actor Matt Dillon.
Prince Panara Sirivudh said he expects progress to continue in sculpture, weaving, painting and film-making, although Cambodia is a long way from producing enough cultural objects to export.
Long Vuthy, who directs training for ministry employees, said the ministry’s next five-year plan includes devising a cultural training course for provincial and municipal officials; organizing a competition for students who wish to work for the ministry; and setting up training classes for officials on how to better use libraries and museums.