The Culture and Fine Arts Ministry says there are still challenges the ministry has to address in order to protect the Kingdom’s culture and heritage sites, despite the work it managed to complete last year.
Ministry spokesman Thai Norak Sathya yesterday during an annual meeting said the ministry worked hard to protect the Kingdom’s culture and heritage sites, adding that it managed to complete 608 out of 636 tasks in 2018.
Mr Norak Sathya said despite this achievement, there are still challenges yet to be addressed, such as encroachment at heritage sites and illegal logging.
“At the Angkor site, some people still break in and illegally occupy the site for their own personal use,” Mr Norak Sathya said. “That site is meant to be preserved and protected.”
He said the buying and selling of ancient artefacts is an issue that has to be addressed, noting that many artefacts are sold to unnamed powerful people in Phnom Penh and provinces across the Kingdom to be kept in private collections.
Minister Phoeung Sakona yesterday said officials must monitor land disputes in order to prevent encroachment.
“Officials must identify land and determine what belongs to who,” Ms Sakona said. “If the land belongs to the state – and is a heritage site – then the land must be protected.”
According to a report by the Apsara Authority, the group worked with local officials to dismantle hundreds of illegally built homes in 2017. It noted that a majority of the homes were built in Siem Reap city.
Moun Sopheap, director of the Siem Reap provincial culture department, said cases of land encroachment in heritage sites tend to increase during election season.
In response, he asked the public to cooperate with officials to identify perpetrators and prevent land encroachment.
“Officials come to examine cases in order to ensure the protection of heritage sites,” Mr Sopheap said.
Land Management Minister Chea Sophara, who presided over yesterday’s meeting, said action must be taken.
“After finding out that some temple sites are being encroached upon by people, I made a suggestion to the Culture Ministry to hold a discussion in order to see what steps can be taken,” he said.
In June 2017, Unesco expressed support for the prevention of the construction of illegal structures in the Angkor Archeological Park.
At a press conference after an ICC-Angkor Committee meeting, Unesco country representative Anne Lemaistre backed the Apsara Authority’s plan to remove the illegal structures.