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In Session: Living Heritage & Historical Memory in Southeast Asia (II)
2: Raise the Red Lanterns! The Rise of Asian Heritage Management at Angkor
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
12:00pm – 1:30pm EDT
Leiden University, Canada
The extensive collection of sites and communities strewn across the Angkor World Heritage Area (hereafter AWHA) has enchanted the world. Spurred by an international aid campaign that followed Cambodia’s civil war, the conservation of its magnificent monuments would develop into a billion-dollar industry, attracting investors around the world. Since 1993, a juggernaut of countries, intergovernmental groups, and international teams contributed to conservation, restoration, research, and sustainable development projects to “save Angkor.” Within this dynamic environment, the varied interests of private investors, international Agencies (under UNESCO’s ICC-Angkor umbrella), and the local APSARA National Authority have gently concealed an imbalance of technical and financial capacity on the ground. Sustained foreign investment into the AWHA has built a cycle of state dependency on tourism to the sites. This placed high demand for international aid to continue conservation, improve the tourism sector, rectify damage to the AWHA from tourism, and foster exciting off-the-beaten-track excavations to expand tourism. Despite overarching management plans for the AWHA, and monitoring from the ICC-Angkor for nearly three decades, diverse foreign investors interested in profiting from tourist markets and cheap Cambodian labor are continually attracted to the Angkor Park and its natural surroundings. With the recent flood of Chinese investment into the country, which rose sharply in the past five years, there has been a predictable shuffling of critical elites in Cambodian heritage management. This paper considers how the rise of China in Cambodia impacts site management, presentation, and conservation values in the AWHA.