November 7, 2023
PHNOM PENH – In a historic moment marking another milestone in the 70-year-long diplomatic relations between Cambodia and Japan, King Norodom Sihamoni celebrated the formal inauguration of a causeway located to the west of the world-renowned Angkor Wat.
While presiding over the November 4 ceremony, the King emphasised the dedication of specialist working groups from Japan who have been actively involved in the preservation and restoration of sites within the Angkor Archaeological Park since 1989, even predating the establishment of the International Coordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor (ICC-Angkor) initiated by the Japanese government in 1993.
The King recounted that the initial phases of collaboration primarily focused on nurturing and developing human resources in the field of cultural heritage, which then evolved into comprehensive training and development initiatives, carried out in conjunction with Cambodian experts.
The culmination of these efforts was the establishment of the Preah Norodom Sihanouk-Angkor Museum in 2007, further solidifying the profound connection between the two nations in preserving the Kingdom’s rich cultural heritage.
“The efforts to conserve and develop Angkor sustainably have been underway with the involvement of various stakeholders, both nationally and internationally, with particular emphasis on Japan,” he explained, while recalling the commitment of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk to preserving Khmer culture.
He highlighted that the late King Father had personally guided numerous leaders, monarchs, heads of state and presidents on tours of the temple complex.
King Sihamoni expressed his sincere appreciation to Japan for its substantial contributions to the accomplishments of the ICC-Angkor over the past three decades.
He also expressed gratitude to the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Sophia University, with a special mention of professor Yoshiaki Ishizawa – head of the Centre for Asian Studies, Research and Human Resources at the University – for their support and commitment to the preservation, research and training within the archaeological park.
The King noted that as the causeway and other temples underwent repair and restoration, Cambodian history and culture were being showcased to the world.
“I encourage and endorse the ongoing human resource development within the nation’s conservation and development sectors through collaboration with multiple Japanese institutions and both national and international partners, aligning with the Pentagonal Strategy of the new Cambodian government for the coming decade,” he stated.
He also expressed gratitude to all civil servants, development partners, staff, workers and the Apsara National Authority (ANA) – a state body tasked with managing the park – for their unwavering dedication and hard work.
“This remarkable achievement is evidence of the ongoing implementation of the government’s national cultural policy in a prudent manner, under the wise leadership of former Prime Minister Hun Sen and Prime Minister Hun Manet, who have consistently prioritised the preservation and advancement of our national cultural heritage,” the King stated.
Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona revealed that the causeway underwent a meticulous 19-year restoration, conducted in two distinct stages. The initial stage, spanning 12 years from 1996 to 2007, witnessed Japanese specialists leading the effort to restore 93m of the causeway. The subsequent seven-year stage, from 2016 to 2023, involved collaborative efforts between Cambodian and Japanese experts, resulting in the repair of an additional 99m.
“Throughout these two phases, a multitude of sandstones and laterites were meticulously reassembled. The restoration of the causeway incurred costs amounting to millions of Japanese yen. Additionally, approximately 30 Cambodian specialists underwent conservation training, equipping them with the expertise needed to undertake temple repairs and conduct independent research,” she elaborated.
The minister further explained that during the second stage, the ANA expended a sum exceeding $820,000, excluding miscellaneous expenses. Sophia University consistently supplied Japanese specialists and an annual grant of $68,000. The Japanese government also contributed approximately $750,000 in the form of aid and equipment for the restoration efforts.
Sackona also announced that on November 3, the ANA and Sophia University formally inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU), solidifying their commitment to ongoing collaboration in preserving Angkor for the next five years.