World Cultural Heritage of Angkor Watt: pride of the nickel-and-dime

Posted by: | Posted on: August 30, 2008

Douglas Gardner, United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative addressed at the “Cambodia Outlook Conference 2007” (ref.1)Douglas Gardner, United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative addressed at the “Cambodia Outlook Conference 2007” (ref.1) that the offshore oil and gas discovery in Cambodia can be a double-edged sword. Many observers simultaneously concluded this plentiful natural resource could be a blessing or could be a curse. Gardner elaborated the global experiences on the resource curse as:

* lack of financial transparency;
* weak financial governance;
* fragmented and porous public finance systems;
* weak and narrow tax base;
* strong evidence of significant corruption;
* a predatory state where officials maximize personal gains through misuse of public office;6
* weak macro-economic management capacity resulting in “Dutch Disease”;7
* significant borrowing against oil reserves;8

In the meantime, he also pinpointed the ingredients to the blessing as follows:

* advance planning to effectively govern, manage and invest the resulting financial flows;
* a high degree of transparency;
* a high degree of participation and meaningful decision making by the parliament or national assembly;
* well developed and effective public sector institutions;
* relatively low corruption with a functioning legal and judicial system;
* a healthy civil society;
* effective macroeconomic management capacity;
* aversion to debt accumulation;
* effective management and investment of the revenues to avoid over-valuation of the exchange rate and promote economic diversification;
* a rate of investment expenditure that ensures inter-temporal efficiency and equity within the capacity limits of the state and absorption capacity of the country (typically back stopped by a well-designed and transparent natural resource fund);

This alarm significantly draws us attention to other ongoing extracting natural resource as well as other future predictable natural resources. Offshore oil and gas reserve as well as World Cultural Heritage of Angkor Watt is considered as the “non-renewable natural resource”.

My attention has been diverted to the World Cultural Heritage Site of Angkor Watt. The ongoing extracting cultural resource site here might be unthinkable to use the term “a blessing or a curse”. But I see it as the “the pride of the nickel-and-dime” of Cambodian people. To Khmer people, Angkor Watt is more than just an ancient pile of stones, more than just world cultural heritage, more than just the remains of a highly advanced kingdom, and more than just a tourist attraction – to the Khmers it is a symbol of national pride and hope. Also, according to UNESCO’s articles, the training and supporting community level to protect and preserve World Cultural Heritage Site (WCHS) (ref.2) as well as its mission “to encourage participation of the local population in the preservation of their cultural and natural heritage;” (ref.3) has been importantly included in their listing procedure.

So my expression “pride of the nickel-and-dime” in here essentially elaborates the two inseparable intents of the Pride of World Cultural Heritage (PWCH) and the Well-Conditioned Livelihood of the Local People (WCLLP) around the site. Of course, these two conditions are usefully interdependent.

We have not seen much any study involving the economic and livelihood condition of local people around the WCHS particularly Angkor Watt, but we extremely concern that the public aspirations to this study are enormous. The study will focus on the finding of living condition of those local villagers as effect premise, nationalized and localized governance policy notions to those local villagers as the causality premise, presumption the adequate accessible sharing benefits of local villagers with the income extracting from the WCHS as the effect premise to solution, and the collective awareness of internationalized, nationalized, and localized governance policy notions leading to mutual achievement as the causality premise to solution.

In short, this outstanding win-win study should be:

1. Effect Premise of the Problems: truth of current living condition of those peoples rationally measured by necessary needs of living such as the family size, the daily expense, the balance of income and expense. The subsistence jobs which will look in dept at timber, nontimber forest products (NTFP), farm land, livestock, and enterprises (family enterprises). Beside these, the vulnerability trends will survey on the asset bases of natural capital, social capital, financial capital, physical capital and human capital.

2. Causality Premise of the Problems: we will entirely concentrate on the notions of governance policy in internationalizing (visitors), nationalizing, and localizing to achieve participation, decision-making, decentralization, predictability, accountability, transparency, and the rule of law.

3. Effect Premise of Problems Solution: truth of final goal achievement that can engage to win-win solution for the villagers living around the WCHS. The study will mainly discuss the three interdependent bodies: the temple, the government agencies, and the villagers. Villagers living around the temple should not regard the temple as their national pride solely, but regard the temple as the source of their living.

4. Causality Premise of Problems Solution: we will collaboratively suggest the possible governance that can lead to the sustainability of equity in benefit sharing from the temple to the local people.

In extent, the study will not only fulfill the prosperity of villagers living around the WCHS, but also bring more effective operational governance to the temple, visitor, government agencies and environment.

Note: this is the drafting introduction

Sophan Seng


Ref.2: Article 22-3-“training of staff and specialists at all levels in the field of identification, protection, conservation, presentation and rehabilitation of the cultural and natural heritage;” – soure: