Natural and Cultural Heritage in Cambodia

Authored by: Jo Gillespie

The Handbook of Contemporary Cambodia

Print publication date:  September  2016
Online publication date:  September  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138831186
eBook ISBN: 9781315736709
Adobe ISBN: 9781317567837


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The national flag of the Kingdom of Cambodia is a widely revered and recognizable symbol of modern Cambodia. The three white towers in the centre of the tri-coloured flag represent the twelfth-century temple of Angkor Wat. The depiction of this monument at the heart of the country’s national symbol indicates the great importance of this building and the glorious cultural history it represents. At almost all times in Cambodia’s recent past, Angkor has featured on the national flag. Angkor represents more than a great architectural monument, arguably the temple and all it symbolises is deeply embedded in the national consciousness. Angkor is unquestionably an intrinsic part of Cambodia’s cultural heritage. This chapter explores Cambodia’s cultural and natural heritage, of which Angkor forms a significant part. Heritage plays an important, if often understated role, in forming and transforming place-based identity. The identification of different forms of heritage can act as a symbolic rallying point; national identity is clearly linked to Angkor’s monuments. Heritage can stimulate national pride and be a source of inspiration. Heritage is also often intrinsically linked to social capital; it can serve to bring cohesion to communities. Yet, however positive the idea of heritage might be, there is an inevitable challenge in protecting this nebulous notion – particularly in post-conflict and developing country contexts. For frequently, the tension between protecting natural and cultural heritage landscapes and icons and the pressure to develop is exacerbated in such settings.

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