Unesco Status Sought for Kampot, Kratie and Battambang

A bid to gain Unesco heritage status for three Cambodian cities is set to progress as the government prepares to make a formal request for Battambang City, Kratie City and Kampot City in June to be considered for preservation.

Work on plans to win recognition for the cities—“rich in ancient buildings” that deserve to be conserved, according to the request—first began more than two years ago.

Antique cars are driven through an intersection in Battambang City in February last year. (Geordie Hay)

The Tourism Ministry has been working with the Culture Ministry to prepare forms and documents to request the designation, which will be submitted while the First International Conference on Sustainable Tourism and Heritage Cities is held in Siem Reap City.

“We considered these three cities important heritage cities as secondary tourist destinations after Siem Reap City,” said Tourism Ministry spokesman Tith Chantha on Thursday. “Those cities are rich in ancient buildings…with the potential to attract tourists.”

The buildings need to be maintained and conserved, he said, and getting World Heritage City designation can provide access to funds to renovate and repair heritage buildings in addition to technical assistance.

The three cities today still reflect their French-colonial heritage. When France and Cambodia signed the Protectorate Treaty in 1863, the French administration embarked on a development program that included road construction and urban planning.

In Battambang, a small number of buildings from the 1800s, when Battambang province was under the control of Thailand—then called Siam—still stand along some buildings from the 1960s.

Culture Minister Phoeurng Sackona said her ministry and other ministries have been working on the designation for the cities, as they boast a rich architectural and urban heritage to show to the world.

Once they receive the Unesco designation, the cities will become more attractive tourist destinations, Ms. Sackona said. “We want foreign tourists to stay longer in Cambodia: When they stay longer…this brings money into our economy.”

Sieng Em Vounzhi, Battambang City’s governor, said he was thrilled that the Cambodian government plans to seek heritage city status for the city about 295 km northwest of Phnom Penh.

The Batttambang authorities have been discussing the designation with Anne Lemaistre, Unesco’s country representative, for some time, and the conference in June will include a visit to Battambang.

“I support this initiative of the government to showcase the country’s heritage…an initiative I would describe as necessary, if not urgent, since we are in the midst of urban development,” Ms. Lemaistre said.

Once submitted, the approval process can be lengthy, she added.

A meeting with the three provincial governors is planned in mid-June, she said.

The conference on heritage cities will be held Siem Reap City on June 13 and 14.

(Additional reporting by Michelle Vachon)

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