ANN/THE PHNOM PENH POST – At least 90 pagodas with “ancient” buildings in Phnom Penh are now registered as national heritage, meaning that they are legally protected from demolition.
The move follows the irregularities surrounding the recent demolition of three heritage buildings at Wat Ounalom and the attempted demolition of an ancient stupa at Wat Botum.
Phnom Penh Department of Culture and Fine Art director Chum Vuthy told The Post that before any pagoda was registered, officials met with its management and leaders.
Vuthy said Wat Ounalom was registered as a national heritage site in May 2017, because between 60 and 70 per cent of the buildings in the complex were judged to be culturally significant.
“Because we listed the whole pagoda, and thus all of the buildings in it, they are required to obtain permission from the Ministry of Culture and Fine Art before any renovations or demolitions are carried out,” he said.
“The culture department’s archaeology team has already informed the pagoda committee and monks, so they are all aware of their responsibilities,” he added.
The Culture Ministry has issued two letters, the first of which expressed deep regret over the demolition of three buildings at Wat Ounalom. According to the letter, buildings 43, 44 and 45 were built during the 1930s.
Following the first letter, which came after dismantling work was completed, the ministry issued a second stating that it would work with local authorities to investigate the demolition. It warned that prosecutions would follow if evidence of wrongdoing was found.
When contacted on January 5, both the culture department and the senior monks of Wat Ounalom said that no date had been set for a meeting to resolve the situation.