First UN conference on tourism and culture opens in Cambodia, seeks to build partnerships

“First UN conference on tourism and culture opens in Cambodia, seeks to build partnerships”


Statues on the Angkor Wat temple in Siem Reap Cambodia. Photo: UNESCO

4 February 2015 – Aimed at bringing together Ministers of Tourism and Ministers of Culture to identify key opportunities and challenges for stronger cooperation between the fields, two United Nations agencies launched the First World Conference on Tourism and Culture today in the shadow of the legendary Angkor Wat temple, in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

The Conference, run by the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) aims to address the overlap between culture and tourism, tackling the question of how to harness the power of tourism and culture to alleviate poverty, create jobs, protect natural and cultural heritage and promote international understanding.

“Today, cultural tourism – the world’s mosaic of art forms, heritage sites, festivals, traditions, and pilgrimages – is growing at an unprecedented rate,” said Taleb Rifai, UNWTO Secretary-General. “Humanity’s curiosity about cultural heritage is the element that truly differentiates one destination from another.”

Mr. Rifai described the growth of international tourism since the 1950s and the socio-economic contribution made by tourism, accounting for one out of every 11 jobs worldwide, as well as contributing nine per cent to global gross domestic product (GDP) and 30 per cent contribution to total global exports.

Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General, joined Mr. Rifai in looking forward to building a new, sustainable partnership that unites tourism and culture and said her goal was to create a positive mutually reinforcing dynamic between the two, working to build sustainability and to benefit local communities.

“Our starting point is to safeguard culture under all its forms, from monuments to living heritage, encompassing traditions, festivals and the performing arts,” said Ms. Bokova. We do so, because culture is who we are. It shapes our identity and is a means to foster respect and tolerance among people.”

She underlined the need to safeguard cultural heritage while moving ahead with sustainable tourism and said she believed that was the Conference’s core message, citing that vision as the route to promoting culture as a driver and enabler of sustainable development.

Cambodia’s Minister of Tourism, Thong Khon, also welcomed delegates, looking forward to the event’s contribution to sustainable conservation and development of tourism and culture.


Dance Preview: Cambodia Troupe Preserves its Cultural Heritage

“Dance Preview: Cambodia Troupe Preserves its Cultural Heritage”

by Jane Vranish  via “Pittsburgh Gazette

20141104hoCambodiaMag04 The Royal Ballet of Cambodia.

There is a lesson to be learned from the Royal Ballet of Cambodia: that, no matter what, the arts will persevere. When this company tours, it is more than a respected dance troupe; it is a true symbol, much like a phoenix rising from the ashes, of its small southeastern Asia country that has been beleaguered over the centuries.

So when the troupe comes to the Byham Theater Friday as a special presentation of Cohen & Grigsby Trust, it will demonstrate not only the art of dance but the art of survival.

The Royal Ballet of Cambodia
Where: Byham Theater, Downtown.
When: 8 p.m., Friday,.
Tickets: $20-$45; 412-456-6666, or Theater Square Box Office.

The ballet has recently served as an ambassador, performing its ritualistic dances for heads of state. It also served as a reminder of Cambodia’s attempt during the Vietnam War to remain neutral.

All along the Royal Ballet had been treading a fine line between heaven and earth. It was considered to have ties to the gods, but also served as a harem to Cambodian kings, the dancers restricted to palace grounds.

The company persevered while Cambodia was marked by inner turmoil and outside conflicts with other nations, most notably Thailand and France. The French controlled the country from 1864 to 1953, when Cambodia achieved independence. At one point, the French tried to disband the troupe, but a young King Sihanouk and his mother, Queen Kossamak, recognizing its political and spiritual importance, reinstated it. At that time, the queen codified and modernized the technique. Dancers moved out of the palace and into the city.

The company suffered a setback in 1975, when Cambodia was overtaken by the notorious Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge. Most of the company was killed in the genocide that followed. Those few who successfully hid among the people emerged in the 1980s to painstakingly reconstruct the company. Today it tours the world, led by Her Royal Highness Princess Norodom Buppha Devi, who serves as the company’s choreographer. In a tribute to the group’s importance in preserving the 1,000-year old Khmer dance style, UNESCO recognized the ballet as part of its Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2003.

The Royal Ballet is known worldwide for its delicacy of style and nuance. The dancers stretch every morning into impossibly difficult poses, particularly hand gestures that are remarkable for their flexibility. Chamroeuntola Chap, one of eight female “stars” on the current U.S. tour, says it should feel “like you’re floating.” But she says it took years of training to achieve, including a stint at the university to learn the troupe’s history. . . . .


Cambodia’s Angkor artifacts to be exhibited in China

Cambodia’s Angkor artifacts to be exhibited in China

via “China Daily”

Eighty masterpieces from Cambodia’s renowned Angkor Wat Temple will be displayed in China for six months, aiming at promoting cultural ties between the two countries.

Cambodian Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona and Liu Shuguang, director general of the Chinese Academy of Cultural Heritage, signed an agreement on the ancient artifacts lease on Tuesday with the presence of Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Bu Jianguo.

According to a press statement after the signing ceremony, Chinese Academy of Cultural Heritage, Beijing Huaxie Cultural Development Company and Capital Museum China will co-organize the exhibition, to be commenced in Capital Museum China in Beijing from December 26, 2014 for three months, afterwards in Guangdong Provincial Museum from April to late June in 2015.

The complete 80 pieces of historical relics are borrowed from the National Museum of Cambodia.

“As the first ever showing exhibition from Cambodia in China, this event is bound to open a new chapter of cultural exchange between the two countries,” the statement said.

“It will provide a unique platform of reflection towards history, civilization, religious feature and arts achievement of Angkor period in Cambodia.”

Phoeurng Sackona said the exhibition will be a unique chance to enhance friendship and cultural ties between Cambodia and China.

“We hope that the exhibition will help promote Cambodian culture to both Chinese and foreigners in China,” she told reporters.

“I also hope that through the event, more Chinese tourists will visit Cambodia’s Angkor Wat Temple, a world heritage site.” . . . .


Organized Crime, Military Linked to Theft of Cambodian Artifacts

Organized Crime, Military Linked to Theft of Cambodian Artifacts

by Robert Carmichael via “VOA News



Over the past 40 years Cambodia’s cultural heritage has been looted on a massive scale, with countless thousands of artifacts taken from hundreds of sites, smuggled out of the country and into museums and private collections around the world. New research indicates that not only was much of this the work of organized networks, but that most pieces have disappeared from public view – probably forever.

Between the start of Cambodia’s civil war in 1970 and the eventual end of hostilities some 30 years later, the country’s 1,000-year-old temples and other historic sites were comprehensively plundered. In one incident in the early 1970s, government soldiers used a military helicopter to airlift artifacts from the 12th century citadel of Banteay Chhmar in the northwest.

At the same complex in 1998 – generals spent a fortnight tearing down and carting away 30 tons of the building. Just one of the six military trucks that went to neighboring Thailand loaded with artifacts was stopped and its contents returned. The rest disappeared, likely sold on the black market.

The Duryodhana statue is one of three returned to Cambodia from the United States in early June, Phnom Penh. (Robert Carmichael/VOA)The Duryodhana statue is one of three returned to Cambodia from the United States in early June, Phnom Penh. (Robert Carmichael/VOA)

For many years, researchers assumed that such brazen, well-organized looting was the exception rather than the norm, and that most of the looting of Cambodia’s heritage was a low-level affair, with local people plundering ancient sites and selling statues, carvings and stone reliefs in haphazard fashion.

But a new study carried out by researchers from the University of Glasgow in Scotland shows that was not the case.

“The organized looting and trafficking of Cambodian antiquities was tied very closely to the Cambodian civil war and to organized crime in the country,” explained Tess Davis, a lawyer and archaeologist, and member of the study team that also included criminologists.

“It began with the war, but it long outlived it, and was actually a very complicated operation, a very organized operation, that brought antiquities directly from looted sites here in the country to the very top collectors, museums and auction houses in the world,” she added.

Davis said the Cambodian and Thai militaries were often involved in looting, as was organized crime. Local people were often forced to work as laborers.

Researchers say that at the end of the chain in Thailand was a Bangkok-based dealer who provided the laundering link between the criminals and the collectors and museums.


Coming Exhibition: Leang Seckon ~ Hell on Earth

“Leang Seckon ~ Hell on Earth “


Who:  Rossi Rossi ~ London Gallery

When: June 27, 2014 – July 25, 2014 (Mon-Sat. 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.)



How Much:  Reservations recommended with information on their website.

More Information: Here

Rossi & Rossi is pleased to announce Hell on Earth, contemporary Cambodian artist Leang Seckon’s second solo show with the gallery. The exhibition, held at Asia House, London, features a body of recent paintings, collages and video works by the artist.

Seckon grew up during the devastating period of Khmer Rouge rule, witnessing firsthand the government-enforced policies that led to famine and disease, as well as state executions. He describes this period as “hell on earth”, when the haunting prophecies found in a set of popular nineteenth-century Buddhist texts, the Buddh Damnay, were realized: “war will break out on all sides…blood will flow up to the bellies of elephants; there will be houses with no people in them, roads upon which no-one travels; there will be rice but nothing to eat”. The prophecies provided Cambodians with an explanation for the violence and destruction of the Khmer Rouge, placing the period within the cyclical pattern of Buddhist history.

The artist’s collages and paintings are intimate narratives of his memories from the period and the civil war that followed. The process of creating artworks simultaneously allows him to experience and express the freedom that was denied to him as a youth. However, Seckon’s work also acts as a warning: like the Buddh Damnay, it cautions against corruption and the destruction of the environment, drawing parallels between Cambodia’s present and its past.

A fully illustrated catalogue with an essay by renowned curator Jens Hoffmann accompanies the exhibition.

On 28 June, Leang Seckon will be joined by Dr. Peter Sharrock (SOAS) to discuss the artist’s approaches to his work and the impact of Cambodia’s turbulent and complex history on his practice. The talk is free to attend, however seat reservations are recommended. To reserve a seat please visit:”