Cambodia Looks for Balance in Urban Heritage Preservation, Senate President Hun Sen Says

President of the Senate Hun Sen holds a meeting with French Senator Vincent Éblé who represents the Seine-et-Marne department in France and is president of the French-Cambodian Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group. Photo from Facebook

PHNOM PENH — Former Prime Minister Hun Sen stated on May 17 that Cambodia recognizes the importance of preserving urban historical landmarks and buildings in its development journey.



"We need to seek a balance between old buildings and modern buildings by preserving old ones based on their quality,” said Hun Sen, who is the current president of the Senate. “Some old buildings are too dilapidated to be preserved as they can cause dangers to people.”



He highlighted the government's efforts to continue the preservation work of old buildings, pointing out the ongoing preservation of the Chamkar Mon Compound—a legacy of the late King Norodom Sihanouk, which currently houses the Senate. He added that many structurally-sound buildings will be preserved nationwide in Phnom Penh and the provinces.



Hun Sen made these remarks during a meeting with French Senator Vincent Éblé who represents the Seine-et-Marne department in France and is president of the French-Cambodian Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group.



During the meeting, Éblé suggested that the Cambodian government preserve national cultural heritage, especially existing old buildings in urban areas.



Cambodia has long been dealing with whether to preserve urban historic buildings in the capital and several cities in the country as many landmarks have been demolished to make way for new developments. The lack of political will and the absence of laws and regulations specifically aimed at preserving old buildings and urban heritage have contributed to this trend.



During his meeting with Senator Éblé, Hun Sen acknowledged the deep historical ties between Cambodia and France and thanked France for its continuous support to help Cambodia preserve its cultural heritage. He especially commended France's role as co-chair with Japan of the International Coordinating Committee of Angkor, which has been instrumental in Cambodia's efforts to have Sambor Prei Kuk included in UNESCO's World Heritage list in 2017, further strengthening the bonds between the two nations.



Éblé emphasized Cambodia's untapped cultural potential to attract tourists, pointing out that the country can do more to extend tourists' stays by establishing museums. 



The French senator noted that he had discussed with Minister of Culture Phoeurng Sackona setting up a museum near the site of Koh Ker—inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in September 2023—to enable tourists to experience both the rich history that this site’s temples reflect and their cultural significance that would be reflected in this museum. 



At the request of Cambodia, which was looking for support to stop Thailand and Vietnam from expanding on its territory, Cambodia and France signed a Protectorate Treaty in 1867, which led to Cambodia eventually becoming part of France’s Indochina along with Laos and Vietnam. After obtaining its independence in 1953, Cambodia and France maintained close ties to this day. Since the early 1990s, France has been a donor and partner in various sectors ranging from culture to economics and education.



Prime Minister Hun Manet met with French President Emmanuel Macron during his official visit to France in January 2024.


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