Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday inaugurated a sign identifying the temples of Angkor Wat as a World Heritage Site, 16 years after the temples made the coveted list.
Speaking on the first day of a meeting of the International Coordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor in Siem Reap, Hun Sen said he hoped the event would mobilize more international financing for the conservation of the temples.
“This move clearly notifies all Cambodian people of the necessity to communicate with the international community to conserve and disseminate our national culture,” he said, also calling on scholars to keep exploring unique aspects of Khmer civilization.
The sign inaugurated Monday is the first on-site notification of Angkor Wat’s World Heritage status since Unesco listed it in 1992, Apsara Authority Deputy Director-General Soeung Kong said.
“Before we didn’t install the sign until right now; we want to attract tourists [and show] that Angkor is an international Heritage Site,” Soeung Kong said, though he conceded that many tourists were already aware of its status.
Similar signs and flags of Cambodia, the World Heritage logo and the National Commission for Unesco were installed last month at the Preah Vihear temple, Cambodia’s most recently listed World Heritage Site. But Hun Sen said a larger celebration was coming up soon.
“[W]e are currently waiting for another splendid event at Preah Vihear temple, which has been registered recently as a World Heritage,” Hun Sen said. “We will celebrate tremendously according to its wonderful value,” he said.
The ceremony, in the presence of Unesco officials from Paris, was previously announced for early December, but Hang Soth, secretary-general of the Preah Vihear Authority, said he did not have an exact date yet.
“The ceremony will show the Thai soldiers that we are setting an official flag together with government officials and Unesco,” Hang Soth said.
He added that the signs are meant to prevent fighting near the temple, as happened Oct 15, when Cambodian authorities say Thai bullets and grenades chipped the temple’s stone stairs and two naga statues.