Following a successful meeting between King Norodom Sihamoni and French President Emmanuel Macron, the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has announced it will collaborate with France on three major cultural projects.

The King granted an audience to the French president in Paris on November 13, during an official visit to France.

The three projects include the expansion of the National Museum of Cambodia (NMC) and the restoration of several bronze Vishnu sculptures, as well as the continued conservation and development of the Angkor Archaeological Park and Sambor Prei Kuk Temple.

The expansion of the museum will be made possible through collaboration between ministry officials and the Guimet Museum of France. 

The ministry explained that the two sides will explore several potential possibilities that will meet the growing needs of the museum’s collection, as well as visitors. 

They will also examine the potential relocation of the Royal University of Fine Arts.

In early 2022, the ministry sought support from foreign partners, a move that was endorsed by the French embassy in Cambodia at the time.

“France committed to dispatching specialists, who engaged in discussions with the ministry. Following mid-2023 talks, both parties are currently in the process of preparing a technical report which will summarise the outcomes of the meeting,” said the announcement.

It added that the restoration of the bronze Vishnu sculptures is scheduled to begin in mid-2024, with the work expected to reach completion in around one year.

The third project concerns the operations of the International Coordinating Committee for Angkor (ICC-Angkor) and the Sambo Prei Kuk International Coordinating Committee. 

France and Japan serve as co-chairs for these committees, which act as inter-governmental mechanisms dedicated to the preservation of these monuments.

“This international mechanism is regarded by the global community, particularly UNESCO, as a model of success in the conservation and development of world heritage treasures. Cambodia sees this as a triumph of international collaboration,” said the ministry.

It explained that the ICC-Angkor mechanism has been operational for over 30 years. Looking forward, the Kingdom plans to focus on cooperation to develop conservation human resources over the next decade.

A meeting at UNESCO central headquarters in Paris on November 15 introduced a 10-year strategy plan (2024-2034).

Ministry spokesperson Sum Mab said on November 15 that Cambodia and France have historically maintained strong relations and cooperation across various sectors, with a particular emphasis on the cultural sector and enduring friendly collaboration. 

“The development of the cultural sector reflects the expanding friendship between Cambodia and France. France has consistently provided assistance and support to Cambodia, notably in the realms of education and health,” he added.

Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, noted that Cambodia’s positive relations with France have roots in historical ties, and this connection persists to the present day.

He added that, with the exception of the Cold War period, the interaction between the two countries has sometimes been distant. However, France played a pivotal role in coordinating the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements and providing essential assistance to Cambodia in its reconstruction efforts.

“I’ve noticed consistent support from France in Cambodia’s human resource development, particularly in the health and law sectors. France has actively engaged in cultural tasks, contributed to the NMC, and participating in the repair and conservation of temples, artefacts and fine arts. Additionally, It has taken on the co-chair role in the ICC-Angkor,” he continued.