Two deals on cultural cooperation in Cambodia were signed yesterday between the United States embassy and the Culture and Fine Arts Ministry.
In a press release, the US embassy said that the first MoU extended an agreement between the two governments concerning the “Imposition of Import Restrictions on Categorised Archaeological Material of Cambodia” for an additional five years.
“The MoU is intended to reduce the incentive for pillaging irreplaceable archaeological material representing Cambodia’s rich cultural heritages,” the embassy said, noting that the first agreement was signed in 2003 and extended in 2008 and 2013.
Cambodia will continue its best effort to maintain and share with the US information about unauthorised excavations, thefts of cultural property, trafficking of cultural property and other threats that jeopardise Cambodia’s cultural patrimony, it added.
The second agreement is the Award Agreements of the approved US Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation 2018 by the US State Department, through the embassy, to support the National Authority for Preah Vihear Conservation Project.
The agreement awarded Cambodia $200,000 for “the Conservation of the Northern Ancient Staircase at the 11th-Century Temple of Preah Vihear”.
US Ambassador to Cambodia William Heidt yesterday said that the agreements are a testament to the long standing and productive relationship between the US and the Culture and Fine Arts Ministry.
“We will be signing two important cultural documents today that, together, illustrate the breadth and importance of that relationship,” Mr Heidt said. “The Ambassador’s Fund is an important and valuable programme for Cambodia. During my assignment in Phnom Penh, Cambodia has received grants from the Ambassador’s Fund to preserve the clothing of victims at the Tuol Sleng museum, improve programming for the Angkor Borei museum in Takeo and continue the remarkable restoration of the Phnom Bakheng temple in Angkor Park.”
“The first five years of the MoU have been a significant success. More than 20 historical artefacts have been returned to Cambodia under the MoU, including important statues from Koh Ker temple complex,” he added. “At the end of this month, I am going to conclude my assignment in Cambodia and return to the US. I’ve worked on many different issues these past three years, but none have given me as much satisfaction as helping Cambodia preserve its cultural property and returning looted antiquities back home where they belong.”
Phoeurng Sackona, Culture and Fine Arts Minister, said that the ministry has entered into several agreements, MoUs and conventions pertaining to the protection of cultural heritage.
“The extension was made official through the exchange of the signed MoU between the two governments,” Ms Sackona said.
She added that the ministry has taken additional efforts over the years to combat the illicit trade of Cambodia’s cultural property.