Cambodia, U.S. Sign Cultural Property Cooperation Agreement

The Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts and the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh this morning signed a U.S.-Cambodia Cultural Property Agreement extending for another five years the U.S.’ long-standing commitment to preserving and restoring Cambodia’s rich cultural heritage.

The agreement was signed at the National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh between Cambodian Minister of Culture and Fine Arts H.E. Dr. Phoeurng Sackona and U.S. Ambassador H.E. W. Patrick Murphy.

Cambodia is the only county in Southeast Asia with this agreement, said the embassy in a press release, adding that the first Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed in 2003.

The extension of the MOU between the U.S. and the Royal Government of Cambodia, concerning “the Imposition of Import Restrictions on Categories of Archaeological and Ethnological Materials of Cambodia,” will reduce the pillaging of irreplaceable archaeological material from Cambodia and continue the exchange of archaeological and ethnological materials for cultural, educational, and scientific purposes to promote public appreciation of and access to Cambodia’s rich cultural heritage, the source pointed out.

Over the past 20 years, it underlined, this MOU has facilitated the return of over 100 priceless antiquities and built the capacity of Cambodians working on cultural heritage preservation.

At the ceremony, U.S. Ambassador H.E. W. Patrick Murphy also announced a US$450,000 award through U.S. Embassy Phnom Penh’s Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation to continue the restoration of the 9th century Phnom Bakheng Temple.

“Both our countries recognise the power of culture to bring people together. The U.S. is proud of its contribution to restoring and preserving Cambodia’s cultural heritage for generations to come,” H.E. Ambassador Murphy said in his remarks.

H.E. Dr. Phoeurng Sackona said that for decades, Cambodia’s cultural artifacts have been looted and acquired by private collectors and museums around the world. “Effective measures to counter the illicit trade of artifacts and cultural property depend on close cooperation...Collaboration between the U.S. and Cambodia is crucial in combatting the illicit trade of artifacts,” she stressed.

H.E. Minister also expressed thanks to the United States Government for the continued support in the field of cultural protection and preservation.

According to the press release, since 2001, the U.S. has provided almost US$6 million for the cultural preservation of Cambodia’s culture, including previous grants to restore Preah Vihear temple, support the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum, create digital inventories of objects at provincial museums, and educate the public on cultural heritage protection.

Source: Agence Kampuchea Presse