Your Royal Highnesses, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today it is my distinct honor and pleasure to join you all in this closing session of the “Fiftieth Anniversary of 1954 Hague Convention Workshop “, which has been held two days now.
It is indeed a great honor for Cambodia to host this workshop on the “Fiftieth Anniversary of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict”. I highly appreciate and deeply thank all speakers for their valuable time and contribution of their excellent experiences for the success of this workshop. Particularly, active participation by all workshop participants in the discussion has contributed additional new experiences to the efforts in improving cultural property protection in the event of armed conflict in general, and the cultural heritage protection in Asia in particular.
Asia is rich with diverse cultural heritages. In particular, Cambodia has many cultural and historical sites dating thousands of years back to our ancestors, the most prominent of which are the unique Angkor temples that are the greatest products of Khmer architecture, sculpture and history. During the Angkor era, Cambodia reached its peak as a civilized nation. At that time, we employed the most modern technologies in construction, architecture, urban management, agriculture and other infrastructures. In the City of Angkor, the people, forests and temples co-existed in harmony, peace and prosperity. Even today, all who are fortunate to visit and gaze upon the Angkor monuments fall under their spell of beauty, mystery and greatness, and are forever held in thrall.
At the same time, Cambodia also has many other natural, recreational and eco-tourism sites, which we are working hard to further develop into wonderful tourism venues. These include geographic sites rich in unique cultural and natural attractions. Based on this favourable condition, the Royal Government has determined the policy of tourism development of Cambodia as a “Cultural and Natural Tourism” destination. The Royal Government keenly appreciates the enormous potentials for tourism’s contribution to Cambodia’s socio-economic development. The Government also shares in the global recognition of tourism as a unique mechanism for trade and communication, which contributes broadly to national revenues, job creation, and improvement of living standards. Moreover, cultures, traditions and national reputations are promoted worldwide through tourism, impacting on regional and international understanding, cooperation and peace.
The Royal Government of Cambodia has exerted its utmost efforts to attract more tourists to the Angkor Zone, while at the same time protecting and conserving the Angkor for sustainable development. The Royal Government has formed the APSARA Authority as a Special Authority to protect and conserve the Angkor cultural area. Efforts of the APSARA, in collaboration with the UNESCO and other international partners have moved beyond the rescue stage into a new era of conservation and development.
The Royal Government is now monitoring all the developments in the Angkor area keeping track of both positive as well as negative impacts, while facilitating corrective measures. A master plan for the development of the Angkor area has been formulated with worldwide assistance and is now under implementation in terms of projects such as water and electricity supply, wastewater management and other infrastructures all toward the goal of preserving and developing the area into a sustainable cultural tourism destination that we can all be proud of.
This workshop on the “Fiftieth Anniversary of the 1954 Hague Convention” represents another new opportunity, stressing great importance on cultural property protection in the event of armed conflicts and viewing the necessity of implementing international laws and conventions for combating oppression, proliferation and destruction generated from human activities harming our living environment.
Currently, the UNESCO World Heritage Center has mobilized all worldwide efforts to expand the world heritage list, not only covering cultural heritage but also natural, bio-diversity resource and eco-tourism sites, so that we would pay more common attention on preserving our ancestors achievements and natural environment forever lasting. This constitutes favorable natural conditions to support human life on earth.
Cultural heritages reflect livelihood, history and identity of every single national community. In this sense, conservation support and heritage protection are great contributions to rehabilitate wrecked community, to improve fine culture of all nations as well as to link national identity through out time; past, present and future.
For these reasons and with other sore events emerged by wars, we all have to be conscious in join protection of national and international heritage to preserve cultural values and human civilization as well as to promote pride for our next generations.
For the protection of cultural and natural protection, Cambodia has previously been signatory party of many international conventions such as “the 1954 Hague Convention”, “the 1970 UNESCO Convention” and “the 1972 UNESCO Convention on Cultural and Natural Heritage Protection”. Cambodia is preparing the adoption of some other international conventions such as “International Convention to Safeguard Intangible Cultural Heritage” and “Convention for the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage”.
To date, national heritage area of Angkor has been official included in world cultural heritage. We continue to study the possibility and evaluate quality of other natural areas to be included in reserve list of world natural heritage. In this sense, our efforts are not only to protect and preserve cultural heritage but the protection and preservation must be extended to natural heritage as well. This shows active contribution in protecting natural environment which is the main factor for sustainable economic development.
As I have mentioned above and according to newest statistical evidence, Cambodia has many cultural heritages including more than 2,000 temples, for which the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has closely cooperated with the Ministry of Environment and other line ministries and with support from international community to preserve, protect and develop these sites to a higher level.
Previously, Cambodia has studied protocols of conventions on world heritage and we understand the importance of these international laws and regulations. We then adopted these protocols on the 04th of April 1962. Indeed, Cambodian cultural heritage comprises inestimable value in which Angkor Temples are the marvellous wonders representing prosperous culture of Cambodia. We can surely say that by implementing the 1954 Hague Convention, these heritages could partly be saved from the destruction caused by historical change from 1970. Moreover, within this convention framework, much of national cultural properties in “Angkor Conservation” in 1970 were carefully packed and preserved in National Museum in Phnom Penh until now. In this workshop, we also have the honour to have one official from the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts who was involved in that process of packaging and transferring those cultural properties to be preserved in Phnom Penh, as it was mentioned before in this workshop.
It is undeniable that Cambodia has gained tremendous benefits from conventions for cultural and natural heritage protection and from the implementation of international humanitarian laws. In this sense, the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts is preparing the second protocol of the 1999 Hague Convention for adoption by the Royal Government. Cambodia is fully committed to boosting the adoption of the 1954 Hague Convention and other two protocols by other Asia-pacific countries as well as contributing all of our efforts to promote cultural property protection in the event of armed conflict as well as in time of peace among people and leaders in the region.
In closing, on behalf of the Royal Government and myself, I thank all national and international guests for your presence and attention. I also wish you all Your Royal Highnesses, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, distinguished guests, all the best for the New Year 2005. I am strongly convinced that we will jointly exert our efforts in securing peace and cultural and natural property preservation of the world for ever lasting. Once again, I thank for your attention and may I declare the closing of the workshop.