Sitting on the porch of her classical house which was left from the French colony period, Prum Angkim is occupying herself with her daily evening repose while she takes in the view of the Psar Nat market – the biggest historical building in Battambang city.
Angkim’s house is located directly opposite from the bustling market in the heart of Battambang – an area splattered with houses that have remained more or less intact from the French colony period across the Kingdom.
Angkim, originally from Banteay Meanchey province, said Battambang city was increasingly becoming more modern and was growing in appeal for people of all ages.
“This city is so beautiful, and I love it so much,” she said, adding that an increasing number of architectural vestige enthusiasts, both local and international, were flocking into the city to appreciate the historical buildings while soaking up the local culture.
Battambang’s rich heritage has always been finely balanced with the city’s infrastructure, as witnessed firsthand by Sun Bunsen, a police officer in Battambang city.
“The city still has a lot of houses left from the French colonial era, which is the main factor contributing to the flourishing flow of foreigners,” he said.
“I predict that there will be an even larger number of foreigners that will visit in the future when the city is finally enlisted as part of the UNESCO world heritage cities.”
Via the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts and the Ministry of Tourism, the government is progressing with a set of relevant documents as a proposal to UNESCO to induct Battambang city, Kampot city and Kratie city on to the United Nations arm’s World Heritage Cities Program.
The process is two years into an earmarked three-year evaluation period, with government officials stating in early 2015 that it would take three years for the government to collate enough evidence to meet UNESCO’s selection for each of the three cities. Currently, Siem Reap’s Angkor Wat and the Temple of Preah Vihear are both registered as UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Eum Sokhom, head of the tourism advisory board representing Battambang city, said there were 800 remaining houses left from the French colonial era which dates back to as early as the 1800s. Most of the houses, which the city is working to conserve, are situated in Sangkat Svay Pao and Sangkat Wat Kor – the main attraction sites for tourists.
“Aside from the constructions left over from the French colony era, Battambang is also home to many ancient pagodas,” Sokhom said.
“Today, the areas with a lot of historical significance have become the residency and a business playground for many foreigners,” he added.
Run Pheara, director of the Ministry of Tourism in Kratie, said the city’s capital was indeed filled with a lot of houses, which he said have been well maintained, from the country’s French colonial rule.
“Kratie city is attracting a huge number of tourists, especially those from Europe. Last year, the city had 26,000 tourists coming to visit the city,” he said, adding, “If the city can be included as part of the world heritage city, I think it will most definitely garner more tourists and French colonial architecture advocates.”
Kratie governor Sar Chamrong said naming Kratie as the second city to be inducted into the world heritage city list was part of the plan that the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts and the Ministry of Tourism proposed to the heads of government because of the city’s ample French colonial history.
Meanwhile, the coastal province of Kampot is also beaming with infrastructure from the colonial period.
Chan Chesda, Kampot’s governor, said the construction that remains from the French colonial era in the province had not been demolished but had rather been placed under a fiercely guarded conservation protection scheme.
Minister of Tourism, Thong Khun, confirmed to Post Property that the ministry, together with the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, was progressing on time with the necessary documentation required for the proposal to induct the three cities into the UNESCO world heritage city list.