Vang Vieng, Lao PDR

Three Cambodian cities bid for heritage status

One of the many old French buildings in Battambang the government wants Unesco to help preserve. KT/Mai VireakOne of the many old French buildings in Battambang the government wants Unesco to help preserve. (Photo by Khmer Times/Mai Vireak)

The government has asked Unesco to recognize Battambang, Kratie and Kampot as world heritage cities as part of efforts to preserve traditional Khmer and French-colonial architecture.

Tourism Minister Thong Khon said the application will be discussed by member states in June at the Asia Cooperation Dialogue Ministerial Summit on Tourism in Siem Reap province.

Mr Khon said Cambodia wants the sites to be listed because they feature large numbers of historical buildings, adding there are 800 French-style buildings and houses in Battambang alone, according to a report by the .

“Unesco is supporting us to list the sites as world heritage cities, so we are preparing the application,” Mr Khon said. “Listing the sites will help develop them into new tourist destinations.”

Mr Khon said foreigners will appreciate being able to visit Cambodian tourist destinations besides Angkor Wat and the coastal areas. Investors will also be more likely to support development in the three cities once they are recognized by Unesco, he said.

Mr Khon said the Tourism Ministry and Ministry of Culture and Fine Art have already prepared the applications for Unesco. More than 30 tourism ministers will discuss the applications at the Siem Reap summit from June 10 to 15.

Ho Vandy, the secretary-general of the Cambodian National Tourism Alliance, welcomed the move, saying the bid will preserve the cultural heritage of Battambang, Kratie and Kampot for future generations.

“The old buildings in Battambang, Kratie and Kampot combine Cambodian and French traditions. Once recognized by Unesco, all relevant institutions will have to follow procedures to develop and preserve them,” Mr Vandy said.

On Tuesday, Cambodia asked Unesco to register Lakhon Khol dancing and Bokator martial arts on its list of intangible cultural heritage. If the request is approved, it would mean Cambodia could be eligible for extra grant assistance from Unesco, which provides funding for activities aimed at safeguarding cultural heritage.

According to a Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts statement published on Tuesday, a working group of officials has been preparing the applications since December. The applications will be put through rigorous evaluation by international experts before being presented for approval at an intergovernmental committee meeting in 2018.

Cambodia has a total of six Unesco world heritages so far. The Angkor archaeological site was acknowledged in 1992, while Preah Vihear temple made the list in 2008.

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