Culture and Fine Arts Minister Phoeung Sakona is appealing to young Cambodians to visit museums in the Kingdom to understand its culture and history after discovering that the majority of museum-goers last year were foreigners.
Ms Sakona held an annual meeting yesterday and said that according to a ministry report on museum-goers last year, 67 percent of visitors to national and cultural museums across the Kingdom were foreigners, noting similar figures for Tuol Sleng and Choeung Ek at 88 percent and 79 percent, respectively.
She said museums display records of what ancestors over the past few generations left behind, adding that this generation must protect, understand and learn their nation’s history.
“Figures show that the majority of thousands of museum-goers last year were foreigners,” Ms Sakona said. “Where were the Cambodians? Cambodians, especially youths, do not have the motivation to understand our culture and history.”
She said that if the number of Cambodian museum-goers is higher than that of foreigners then she will be able to proudly say Cambodians are beginning to understand their history.
“I urge officials to draft plans to attract Cambodian youths to visit museums so that they may understand Khmer history – and not only be good at Facebook,” Ms Sakona said.
Ms Sakona was referring to comments on Facebook regarding the listing of Lkhon Khol Wat Svay Andet as a Unesco world cultural heritage in November. The listing generated congratulatory messages as well as condemnation on social media.
“They didn’t understand and commented on Facebook to pressure the government and the ministry,” Ms Sakona said. “Some of them did not understand but we don’t blame them because the people loved our culture.”
“But I want people to understand culture, not only criticise on social media,” she added. “Cambodia is trying hard to prepare documents for Unesco world heritage listings.”
Moun Sopheap, director of Siem Reap’s provincial culture department, said the department is currently finding ways to attract Cambodian youths to visit museums located in the provinces.
Mr Sophea said artists have been recruited to show off cultural and historical performances to all visitors in theatres, hotels and restaurants.
“Those performances are to show visitors our culture, history and identity,” he said.
Sou Sreydeth, a high school student, said visiting a museum is one of her favourite sources when it comes to completing research assignments.
However, she noted that not every one of her peers are interested in going to a museum.
“Even when a museum is located close by, they’re not interested,” Ms Sreydeth said. “They don’t care to visit museums, but museums are important in order to understand culture and history. We can see and know the statue of our King.”
According to a ministry report, out of about 1.3 million people who visited museums across the country last year, including Tuol Sleng, Choeung Ek and Wat Phnom, about one million were foreigne nationals.