PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – The National Museum will undergo a massive expansion, but this will not include removing the Royal University of Fine Arts which sits behind it, officials at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts told a public forum yesterday.
They did not, however, release details of the expansion plan for the iconic building, or a timeframe for it.
“It is very important that we expand the museum because it is so small,” said Thai Norak Satya, secretary of state at the ministry. “Our country may be small, but our Khmer heritage is vast. We are the ‘Kingdom of Wonder’ yet our museum is so small,” Mr. Satya Khmer Times following the meeting.
Echoing statements by many disappointed visitors to the museum, he said: “You walk a little bit through the halls and you’re done.”
“This expansion is very important,” he stressed.
Rumors Shot Down
The official also shot down rumors that the museum would be privatized, or leased. “This place will not be used for businesses or restaurants. We will use this place only for our national heritage, not for business,” Mr. Satya said.
The public meeting was held to discuss a number of proposed changes to the museum complex, including upgrading the information booth and adding more space for gift shops.
One plan includes moving the Royal University of Fine Arts, which is located directly behind the museum, to another site. This would provide more space for the museum to expand, officials said.
Mr. Satya, however said there was no reason to do this because there is enough space to expand the museum without removing the university. Talk of moving the university has been roundly condemned by local artists, who say that it will push them out of the city center and hinder the development of a vibrant arts culture in the capital.
“University Land Not Sold”
Mr. Satya said rumors that the ground the university sits on had been sold to a developer were false. They were sparked by comments from Phnom Penh municipal officials that the city lacked the funds to refurbish the university.
Yem Ponhearith, chairman of the National Assembly’s commission on religious affairs, culture and tourism, told the seminar he would hold further discussions about the fate of the university and the status of the museum with his counterparts at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts. “We had some issues with flooding in the museum and there are not enough toilets,” he noted.
Sen Kungy, a student at the Royal University of Fine Arts, supported the idea of expanding the national museum but did not want his campus to move.
“They should expand the museum and build necessary places for study without changing everything. It is an old building, and I want to stay near it and the art within it because I’m a fine arts student here,” he said. “I do not support the school being sold, but I do support the expansion of the museum.”