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Angkor

Cambodia
Factors affecting the property in 1997*
  • Human resources
  • Illegal activities
  • Legal framework
  • Management systems/ management plan
  • Other Threats:

    Urgent problems of conservation

Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Inadequate protective legislation;
  • Inadequately staffed national protection agency;
  • No permanent boundaries established and defined buffer zones;
  • Need for monitoring and coordination of the international conservation effort
International Assistance: requests for the property until 1997
Requests approved: 3 (from 1992-1994)
Total amount approved : 85,000 USD
Missions to the property until 1997**

September 1997: legal expert mission

Information presented to the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee in 1997

1. Protection against theft and looting

Since 1992, numerous activities have been organized to protect the site of Angkor against theft and looting, which are amongst the principal causes of degradation of the monuments of the site.  These activities include the training of museum conservators, customs officials, police responsible for guarding the monuments, teachers, archaeological students, journalists and jurists.  Public awareness-raising activities have been launched on television, in the written press and by means of posters.  Amongst these actions, the success encountered, since its creation, of the "Heritage Police" should be mentioned.  The International Standards Section of the Cultural Heritage Division of the UNESCO Office in Phnom Penh has collaborated with the Cambodian authorities in 1994, in the launching of this "Heritage Police", and its training has since been taken over by the French Police authorities. It comprises a Heritage Police Bureau responsible for inventorying and checking the shops selling art objects; a National Central Office of Cambodia of the OIPC Interpol, and a special Commissariat.  This special operational unit for the protection of the archaeological site of Angkor is under the authority of a police officer with a police force numbering 520.  It essentially has a preventive safeguarding mission, and restricts looting of the monuments of Angkor.  The Heritage Police have already succeeded in retrieving hundreds of objects stolen from the site of Angkor, in particular during the spectacular seizure in November 1996, of four traffickers in possession of several objects.

2. Legislation

The International Standards Section of the Cultural Heritage Division collaborated with the Cambodian authorities in the elaboration of the Law on the Protection of Cultural Heritage, voted by Parliament on 21 December 1995 and promulgated by His Royal Highness on 25 January 1996.  In adopting this law, Cambodia conforms to the articles of the 1970 Convention on the means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.  In do doing, it should be emphasized that Cambodia has thus adopted legislation which is one of the most complete and modern worldwide.

But the application of this Law requires the preparation and adoption of additional legislation, the establishment of appropriate administrative procedures and the training of staff responsible for its implementation, in order that essential administrative documents for its application may be established, such as authorization for digs, export licences, permission for trading activities, etc.  The International Standards Section of the Cultural Heritage Division is willing to pursue its collaboration with the Royal Government of Cambodia and assist in the active implementation of this Law.  Cooperation has already begun on drafting additional application legislation concerning archaeological excavations.

Despite the improved security measures in Angkor, UNESCO continues to be preoccupied by press reports on large-scale and highly organized looting of cultural properties from Cambodia which have allegedly involved the dismantling of monuments for sale.

Action Required

The Bureau congratulated the Government of Cambodia and UNESCO for their efforts over the past years in the adoption of measures against illegal traffic of cultural property from Angkor.  The Bureau, while commending the efforts of the Government and UNESCO, expressed deep concern over the continued looting and illegal excavation of cultural properties from Angkor and other archaeological sites in Cambodia, notably over press reports on the highly organized and sophisticated trade in antiquities, including the dismantling of monuments.  The Bureau invited the Government of Cambodia to submit a report to the twenty-first session of the Committee on administrative mechanisms put into place for the enforcement of the legislation adopted for the prevention of illicit traffic in cultural property.

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 1997

Assistance provided by the UNESCO Secretariat to the Cambodian authorities is connected with the obligations undertaken following the inscription of the site on the World Heritage List and List of World Heritage in Danger. Therefore, UNESCO organized a legal expert mission in September 1997, to prepare the decrees for application and classification laws indispensable for the implementation of the Law for the Protection of National Cultural Heritage, which was promulgated on 25 January 1996, which contains important clauses against illicit traffic in cultural heritage.

The International Co-ordination Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor, of which UNESCO is the Secretariat, held a plenary session on 9 January 1997 and a Technical Committee session on 7 October 1997. It is recalled that the Committee ensures, in co-operation with the Cambodian authorities, the co-ordination and monitoring of international actions undertaken to preserve the site, conserve its monuments and protect its environment.

The balance of emergency assistance funds for the Temple of Pré Rup granted from the World Heritage Fund since 1994, continues to be used for the maintenance of the monument and the recording of structural anomalies.

Moreover, these anomalies can now be recorded thanks to the monitoring system installed by an Italian team. In spite of unrest in the region of Angkor in July 1997, the site on the whole, did not suffer any damage, although the materials of the teams were unfortunately pillaged. However, the work which was interrupted for security reasons has recommenced and is progressing normally. Due to these political events, negotiations concerning the tourist management of Angkor Park have not progressed.

The looting of monuments and illegal traffic in cultural property continues in the region. Of course, because of major efforts on the part of the Cambodian authorities, with support from UNESCO, in the zone of Angkor, numerous stolen objects have been seized and placed in safe keeping. The active presence of the heritage police on the site plays a dissuasive and repressive role. However, constant support is still required by them to meet this difficult task and numerous monuments and archaeological sites outside of the zone of Angkor continue to suffer from looting.

Thanks to the mobilisation of international support from UNESCO, ICOM and the media, many stolen objects have been returned to Cambodia over the past few years by their European, Asian and North American custodians.

International pressure should continue, however, and be increased if it is hoped to dry up the market for stolen and looted cultural property.

Further information from the Technical Committee meeting to be held in October 1997 will be made available at the Committee during the session.

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 1997

The Committee may wish to examine information that will be provided at the time of its session and take appropriate action thereupon.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 1997
21 BUR IV.A.14
Angkor (Cambodia)

The Bureau, while commending the efforts of the Royal Government of Cambodia and UNESCO, expressed deep concern over the looting and illegal excavation of cultural properties from Angkor, notably over the organized trade in antiquities, including the dismantling of monuments. The Bureau invited the Royal Government of Cambodia to submit a report to the twenty-first session of the Committee on administrative mechanisms and regulations put into place for the enforcement of the law on cultural heritage including measures adopted for the prevention of illicit traffic in cultural property. Finally, the Bureau took note with satisfaction of the decision taken by the Royal Government of Cambodia to forbid any hotel construction within the Zones 1 and 2 of the site of Angkor. Furthermore, the Bureau ardently wished that in conformity with the studies carried out for the enforcement of the zoning plans, hotels be built within the hotel zone.

21 BUR IV.B.63
State of conservation

Following discussions of the looting of the site museum at Butrinti, Albania, the Secretariat recalled that illicit traffic was a severe problem at a number of World Heritage sites (Angkor, Baalbek, Petra, Kathmandu Valley, Saqqara, etc.) and that support could be provided by UNESCO in training, contact with other international networks such as INTERPOL and ICOM, and recovery (UNESCO press releases and Notices of Stolen Cultural Property). It also could support states to implement the UNESCO Convention on Illicit Traffic (1970) and the UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Property (1995). There are 150 States Parties to the World Heritage Convention but only 86 to the 1970 Convention. Further information about participation of States in these conventions was requested and a table with information was circulated.

21 COM VII.B.25
SOC: Angkor (Cambodia)

VII.25 Angkor (Cambodia)

The Secretariat reported on the efforts made by the Royal Government of Cambodia and progress made in the safeguarding activities of this site, including those co-ordinated by UNESCO and funded by France, Indonesia, Italy and Japan. The Secretariat reported that the safeguarding activities, which had been interrupted due to the unrest in the region of Angkor in July 1997, had recommenced and were progressing normally. The Delegate of Japan indicated that the second phase of the Japanese project for the safeguarding of Angkor would begin upon the completion of the first phase in November 1998.

With regard to the continuation of the looting of monuments and illegal traffic in cultural property in the region, the necessity to strengthen international support was emphasized. Although international support from UNESCO, ICOM and the media has resulted in many stolen objects being returned to Cambodia, international pressure is still necessary to dry up the market for stolen and looted cultural property. The Chairperson expressed the wish of the Committee for enforcement of existing legal instruments to strengthen the capacity of the Cambodian Local Authorities in their efforts to protect the cultural heritage of Angkor and in their fight against illicit traffic of cultural properties.

The Committee expressed its gratitude to the Cambodian Authorities, the International Co-ordination Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Area of Angkor, and UNESCO for their efforts deployed for the safeguarding of Angkor. In order to increase the international support to the site of Angkor, the Committee decided to maintain the site on the List of the World Heritage in Danger.

Report year: 1997
Cambodia
Date of Inscription: 1992
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (i)(ii)(iii)(iv)
Danger List (dates): 1992-2004
Exports

* : The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.


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