Unesco, Palace Discuss Fate of Pagoda Murals

Unesco representative Anne Lemaistre met Friday with staff of the Ministry of the Royal Palace to discuss the condition of the Silver Pagoda’s century-old wall murals that recent repair work had put in jeopardy.

The meeting, which was initiated by the ministry, took place in an atmosphere that was “in fact collegial and fairly constructive,” Ms. Lemaistre said. “We’re planning to have other meetings in the future to determine how Unesco could assist the ministry in the restoration of the mural.”

On June 29, Ms. Lemaistre wrote to King Norodom Sihamoni and Norodom Sihanouk to let them know that the work being done on the murals of Wat Preah Keo Morokat, also known as the Silver Pagoda, was threatening the fragile painting that date from 1903 and 1904.

According to Michel Verrot—a French government historical-monument curator who analyzed the work done on behalf of Unesco—the cement coating recently put at the bottom of the mural will block hu­­­midity and water evaporation underneath the painting.

As a result, humidity will seep through the painting, accelerating its deterioration.

In her letter, Ms. Lemaitre said that the murals are of such beauty that Unesco would be happy to as­sist the Cambodian government in submitting it for inclusion on the World Heritage List.

The King’s cabinet and retired-King Sihanouk replied that a copy of her letter was forwarded to Kong Som Ol, minister of the Royal Palace.

Norodom Sihanouk had added that it was sent with a request that the restoration be conducted in consultation with Unesco and other competent authorities.

However, work that Unesco be­lieved might eventually cause the murals’ destruction continued and it was only on Thursday that Ms. Le­maistre received a letter inviting her to meet with the ministry staff.

Ms. Lemaistre said that the work undertaken was discussed at the meeting on Friday, and that Unesco looks forward to cooperating with the ministry’s staff to preserve and restore the murals.

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