Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Looting of Cambodia

photo courtesy Heritage Watch

"There is not a single site that is not affected," said Helen Jessup, the founder of Friends of Khmer Culture, describing the looting of Cambodia's artistic treasures. "The Western collectors continue to be as guilty as those who do this."
-Jane Perlez in the New York Times

Jane Perlez' New York Times article, on the looting of Angkor Wat, shed light on a growing problem in Cambodia and Thailand - the defacement and looting of national treasures for collector's cash. Hidden in the article, a single photo credit, is the identity of an organization that refuses to accept these events as inevitable. Headed by Dr. Dougald O'Reilly, Heritage Watch is actively promoting a series of measures to combat looting and the international trade in stolen art:

"The initial phase of HeritageWatch’s projects will focus on education. By targeting a broad spectrum of Cambodian society and visitors to Cambodia we hope to slow the destruction of important archaeological sites. It is hoped that HeritageWatch’s  projects will raise awareness regarding the importance of cultural heritage in all sectors of Cambodian society. This will be followed with training in Cultural Heritage for those in the Culture sector and law enforcement, the creation of a national archaeological register, an evaluation of Cambodia’s heritage laws, and feasibility studies to select suitable sites for museums that would encourage sustainable development through heritage activities. The destruction of cultural heritage is, of course, not restricted to Cambodia and HeritageWatch seeks to broaden its efforts to other countries in the Association of Southeast Asian States where the problem of illicit trade in antiquities is also a problem."

Contact Information:
Dr Dougald O’Reilly, Director, HeritageWatch, GPO Box 1395, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Ph. 012 832 160, e-mail:


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