Koichiro Matsuura, the director-general of Unesco praised the government Thursday night for spending more on education.
The leader of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, who is scheduled to leave Cambodia tonight, did not speak to reporters after the one-hour meeting at Prime Minister Hun Sen’s city residence.
But Srey Thamarong, Hun Sen’s personal adviser, said Matsuura “was very proud to hear the government has increased the budget for education.”
Officials confirmed this week that, for the first time in years, Cambodia will spend more than a third of its daily operating budget on social services, including education. Previous budgets favored defense over social services.
In response to a request from Hun Sen, Matsuura also assured him that a Unesco headquarters would remain in Phnom Penh, Srey Thamarong said.
Hun Sen said Unesco’s presence is important “because Cambodia has so many temples, including some recently found,” Srey Thamarong said. And while Cambodians are very proud of their temples, the prime minister was said to have stated, they lack the technology to protect them.
The two men also discussed Unesco’s interest in improving education in Cambodia, with Hun Sen noting that girls are getting significantly less education than boys.
Matsuura said Unesco is committed to improving quality of teachers and presented Hun Sen a silver medal for his work protecting the country’s cultural heritage.
Hun Sen responded by praising Unesco’s efforts as well, including its successes in tracking down stolen artifacts and helping bring them back to Cambodia.
This visit is Matsuura’s first as director-general of Unesco and the first by a head of that agency since 1991. Elected to the post one year ago, he is a former Japanese ambassador to France and was chairman of Unesco’s World Heritage Committee.
Matsuura, the first Asian to head Unesco, was instrumental a decade ago in setting up efforts to preserve the Angkor complex. During this visit, he also has scheduled meetings with King Norodom Sihanouk, National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh and various ministers.