PM bolsters ‘heritage building’ conservation

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
An old French building which is currently the UNESCO office near the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh. Hong Menea

Prime Minister Hun Sen has issued a circular to prevent the demolition and altering of heritage buildings, the changing or damaging of religious structures, public and private buildings, villages and ancient houses.

In the circular dated October 12 and seen by The Post on October 14, Hun Sen said the government had noted that modernisation had caused the loss of and damage to heritage buildings located on heritage sites in the capital and provinces. He said such buildings are invaluable.

The national heritage and wealth, he added, have been placed at risk and threatened by development, and a balance between conservation and development is needed.

“Therefore, in order for conservation work on the city’s heritage sites and religious buildings, public and private buildings, villages and ancient houses to be in accordance with the Law on the Protection of Cultural Heritage, the government prohibits the alteration of exterior features or damaging the beauty of urban heritage sites,” Hun Sen said.

The prime minister recommended that the cultural,historical, ancient and heritage buildings currently under demolition be stopped so that they will be preserved based on strategies and policies to push for the sustainable preservation and development of heritage sites.

“The heritage buildings that will be restored, redesigned or demolished must be reviewed and a decision made by the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts and relevant authorities first,” he emphasised.

Hun Sen advised all ministries and relevant institutions across the country to implement the circular effectively and with a high sense of responsibility.

Banteay Meanchey provincial culture department director Yong Taing Koy said on October 14 that he was happy when the head of government issued such the circular because in the past heritage buildings in communities had been demolished without the proper authorisation.

“I fully support the content of this circular, and I also ask for the implementation of this circular to effectively cover the capital and provinces, especially in Banteay Meanchey province. Old buildings are our national heritage. All relevant institutions have to respect and implement it,” he said.

Taing Koy added that the province had many old pagodas and temples. The Department of Culture and Fine Arts as well as other stakeholders had educated people and sent information to districts, communes and communities that have artifacts, ancient temples to preserve them.

However, he said some people had not cooperated with authorities and had covertly built near temples and demolished many ancient sites as well.

“We have cooperated with the authorities and police to prevent such incidents, and we continue to do this work on a regular basis. We convened a two-day meeting a week ago to find a solution for application forms for the construction of buildings in temple areas, and we also advised people to build houses in the Khmer style,” he added.