US funds Preah Vihear, Bakheng temple repairs

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
US Ambassador Patrick Murphy (second from left) and culture minister Phoeurng Sackona (third from left) take a walk at Phnom Bakheng after the signing ceremony of US grants to assist preservation of temples in Siem Reap and Preah Vihear provinces on Saturday. Orm Bunthoeurn

The US has provided $420,000 in grants for the repair and preservation of temples in Preah Vihear province and Phnom Bakheng temple in Siem Reap.

A signing ceremony was held on January 16 at Phnom Bakheng with US ambassador to Cambodia W. Patrick Murphy and Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona in attendance.

Speaking after the ceremony, Murphy said the grants were to be split between two temples.

He said the first grant would be $120,000 for the National Authority of Preah Vihear to preserve the northern staircase of the 11th century temple there, including work to restore the ancient drainage system along both sides of the staircase.

He said the second grant of $300,000 would go to the World Monuments Fund (WMF) to continue with Phase 5 of their conservation work at Phnom Bakheng for a period of 24 months through 2022.

The Phnom Bakheng project will be carried out as part of the WMF’s long-term working relationship with the Apsara National Authority.

“I am incredibly proud to announce these grants today, in partnership with Cambodian stakeholders. [They] will help preserve these temples for future generations,” Murphy said.

He added that these historic sites are enduring parts of Cambodia’s unique cultural heritage and that they are heralded and appreciated by the entire world.

Murphy continued that over the past two decades, the US has provided more than $5 million in aid for the preservation of cultural heritage sites in Cambodia through The Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation, which is overseen by the US Department of State.

In addition, Murphy noted that the US government has assisted Cambodia with money for heritage sites from other sources and with aid directed towards many other areas such as public health, agriculture, the environment, law enforcement and combatting human trafficking,.

Culture minister Sackona said the US grants represented welcome cultural cooperation between the two countries.

She said that signing ceremony had substantiated the long-standing support and firm commitment of the US government, along with the international community, for protecting, conserving and restoring cultural heritage in Cambodia.

“I believe that this relationship – cooperation based on the shared values between Cambodia and the US government and their citizens – will continue to develop [and grow] stronger,” she said.

She added that since 2001, the US has provided a lot of support for the repair of temples in Cambodia and towards stopping illegal antiquities trafficking.

She also noted that most of the ancient Khmer temples are being repaired by Cambodian experts with funding coming from many different governments and other cooperative partners.

“We have received funds from the Angkor Wat Temple Foundation that were provided by the Cambodian government from the national budget. We have also received funds from many other friends such as France, India, China and Japan,” Sackona said.

Benedicte de Montlaur, president and CEO of World Monuments Fund, thanked the US embassy for its support in conserving Phnom Bakheng as an important cultural monument and part of the history of Khmer civilisation.

“We are thrilled to build on more than three decades of stewardship at Angkor Archaeological Park to ensure this profound monumental complex continues to educate and enlighten the world,” she said.

Transparency International Cambodia executive director Pech Pisey noted that these bilateral and multilateral aid deals are generally free of overt corruption or misuse of funds.

“With bilateral or multilateral aid provided by development partners, I think that in general, there is a very high degree of accountability and transparency because they always have a third or fourth party monitoring the process and providing a public evaluation of how everything is being done,” he said.