More than 300 national and international archeologists and cultural experts gathered here on Thursday to exchange views and design a new-decade action plan on the protection and preservation of the Angkor Wat Temple, a World Heritage site.
Among the foreign guests at the Third Inter-Governmental Conference on the Angkor are French Minister of Culture and Communications Aurelie Filippetti, Japanese Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Yasumasa Nagamine, and Kishore Rao, director of UNESCO’s World Heritage Center.
“The conference is the venue for cultural experts, archeologists, and officials from more than 30 countries to meet and exchange views on how advanced technology could be applied for the cultural preservation of Angkor,” said a statement.
Addressing the opening ceremony, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said the forum was to review the past decade results in safeguarding and developing the historic site of Angkor and to draw up an action plan for the new decade of Angkor in 2014-2024.
“In the past decade, under the full support from the international community and partnership with UNESCO and more than 20 countries, the Cambodian government has well protected and preserved this Angkor World Heritage site by maintaining the original forms of all ancient temples,” the premier said.
“On this occasion, I would like to call on all of you who represent the international community to continue your support for the action plan in the new decade for protecting and preserving the Angkor,” he said.
The Angkor, built between the 9th and 12th century and inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1992, was removed from the “in danger” status of the UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2004.
The kingdom’s largest cultural site attracted 2 million foreign visitors last year, and some 1.57 million in the first nine months of this year, according to the Ministry of Tourism.
Hun Sen said an overcrowded number of visitors to the Angkor showed the site’s uniqueness and exceptional beauty and one should not blame any stone erosion to the strong growth of visitors.
“Even though there are concerns over risks to resorts and temples due to overcrowded tourists, we should be vigilant and should not think in any negative ways on the high growth of tourists,” the premier said.
Noting the Angkor Archeological Park covers a total area of 40, 000 hectares and there are a lot of ancient temples and resorts for visitors, the premier said it is very important that tourists be introduced to various temples and resorts, rather than just focused on a few sites.
According to Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Cabinet Minister Sok An, the successful restoration and preservation of the Angkor complex and its sustainable development began in 1992.
More than 60 projects to restore the temples have been completed or are being implemented with support from 16 countries including France, Japan, India, China, Switzerland and New Zealand, in addition to 28 international organizations.
The Angkor Wat Temple is located about 315 km northwest of Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia.