Cambodia is in talks with UNESCO to list three cities as sites of cultural or physical significance.
The government has said it hopes that Battambang, Kampot, and Kratie will gain UNESCO listed status, helping to protect historical buildings and draw more tourists.
Prak Sonnara, director general of cultural heritage, said it was the first time Cambodia had applied to have whole cities listed as sites of cultural significance.
“We have experience of listing temples, but listing cities are new for us,” he said. “It will not happen soon.”
He added that Cambodia had learned from the experience of Laos, which listed Luang Prabang by UNESCO in 1995.
“We were told that there are many problems when listing cities. So if we want to list them, we have to do clear research and study. We must have a clear management plan,” Sonnara said, adding that several pagodas in those cities needed preserving for future generations.
On July 8, Cambodia saw the Sambor Prei Kuk temple complex accepted as a UNESCO-listed site. The sixth- and seventh-century temples and remnants of the ancient capital city of the pre-Angkorian Chenla Empire became Cambodia’s third listed World Heritage site after the Angkor Wat and Preah Vihear temples.
Prime Minister Hun Sen, on July 17, claimed that his “proper” foreign policy had secured the listing and said his government would continue to advocate for more sites to be recognized by the organization.
Other cultural phenomena, such as Cambodia’s royal ballet and shadow theatre, have also received the status.
Nguon Rattanak, Battambang’s deputy provincial governor, said an inter-ministerial working group was currently studying the city’s architecture. “This work takes a long time,” he said. “Most tourists come to Battambang for the cultural and natural tourism.”
Rattanak’s administration has implemented strict planning policies to prevent the loss of old structures.