Some 500 of the 1400 participants of the 37th session of the World Heritage Committee made the journey from Phnom Penh to Siam Reap and visited the Terrace of the Elephants at Angkor Thom ahead of the closing ceremony of the event.
The stone elephants that flank the impressive platform built some eight centuries ago by Angkor's King Jayavarman VII for public ceremonies were surrounded by live elephants as the delegates filed into the celebrated World Heritage site before moving on to the ceremony itself.
Performed under the leadership of the Committee’s Chair, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, the closing ceremony brought to life the spirit of ancient Angkor with classical Khmer music and dance, whose origins are recorded in the sculptures and friezes of the World Heritage site.
Indeed, Cambodia’s determination with international led by UNESCO saved Angkor from the effects of war, neglect and pillaging that threatened to deplete its treasures. The site is now held up as an example of how Heritage can serve a country struggling to reclaim its identity and ensure its development after decades of strife.
It also shows that good management can help a country with limited resources benefit from its heritage.
The Committee also inscribed East Rennell (Solomon Island) on the List of World Heritage in Danger along with the six World Heritage sites of the Syrian Arab Republic. It is now to be hoped that States will be able to cooperate to save these threatened sites as effectively as they did for Angkor which figured on the List of World Heritage in Danger from 1992 to 2004.