The Authority for the protection of the site and the Management of the Region of Angkor (APSARA National Authority or ANA) was created in 1995 to answer, in particular, one of the conditions of inscription of the Angkor Site on the World Heritage List, completed in December, 1992 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA.
Thus, during the 19th Session of the World Heritage Committee in Berlin, in December 1995, the announcement by the Cambodian Authorities of the creation of the National Authority APSARA was welcomed with satisfaction by the international community.
The main missions devolved to the National Authority APSARA are the following:
- Ensure, in the region of Siem Reap/ Angkor, the protection, the preservation
and the valuation of national cultural property,
- Conceive and lead the development of cultural tourism of the region of Siem Reap/ Angkor
- Carry out sustainable development to contribute to the implementation of the policy of
the Royal Government of Cambodia for poverty reduction
- Establish partnerships with provincial and territorial authorities
- Cooperate with institutions and organizations, both Khmer and Foreign, which have objectives
answering the vocation of ANA and are operating in the region.
Since 1999, ANA became a public administrative institution, endowed with legal entity and with administrative and financial autonomy.
The Royal Government of Cambodia has carefully monitored the work of the ANA and the implementation of the guidelines on the protection of heritage. This work was crowned with success, in 2004 when the Angkor Site was taken off the World Heritage List in danger.
But the valuation of the Angkor Site would not be complete if conservation actions were not accompanied by development projects that highlight intangible cultural heritage so bound to the identity of the region and an essential element to the self-fulfillment of the population. Primarily concerned about their material well-being, people living in the protected zone areas, despite the difficulties, continue to follow their traditions while arranging necessary resources for their livelihood, in spite of constraints imposed by heritage norms. At Angkor, the population is firmly bound to the land and it was always so – long before the inscription of the site on the World Heritage List. For this population, community development is a categorical imperative, besides compliance with the ethics of the 1972 convention.
On the 40,000 hectares of the park, a population of approximately 125,000 souls, live and work, distributed through 112 villages. To allow families which increase in numbers to have additional dwellings without endangering the integrity of the World Heritage Site, ANA fitted out a 1,000 hectare site, and eco-village at Run Ta EK, to facilitate their re-settlement outside the Angkor Park.
According to guidelines fixed by the Royal Government and promoted by Prime Minister, Samdech Decho HUN Sen, Everything is done and will continue to be done to alleviate the burden of poverty and diversify the sources of income. Activities centered on agriculture and handicrafts will be developed through the ‘Community Participatory’ bilateral project financed by the Agency of International Development (NZAID) of New Zealand and ANA and the ‘Green Belt’ project financed by the Agency of International Cooperation of Germany (GTZ) and ANA.
Other projects of economic, social and patrimonial interest are also running, such as the ‘Greater Angkor Project’, ‘Living with Heritage’ project and the ‘Heritage Management Framework’ project, conducted in cooperation with Australia. The economic boom is in a favorable mode, with the Angkor region completely secure, whether in terms of mine clearance, or in terms of prevention of illicit trafficking of art objects.
Visitors can discover prestigious monuments, in their green settings, revealing the cultural landscapes consisting of rice fields, with villages nested in luxuriant and varied vegetation. They can move without fear, thanks to development projects that facilitate visiting Ta Prohm Temple as well as to the remarkable Khmer-Swiss joint program on infrastructures and displays exhibited in the approach to Banteay Srei Temple.
Safety and enjoyment is a very high consideration where visitors, at all times, can call on service officers of the ANA, specialist Park security officers and tourist police for information and advice.
As well, the Angkor forest is well protected by a team of rangers and fire prevention officers who also assist in the prevention of illegal or antisocial activities.
Clearly tourist activities must be well-managed and well-conceived. They should be based on historical and cultural programming of high quality and in complete harmony with universal heritage norms. Tourists, even when they visit ‘en masse’, value authenticity and look for quality services.
The creation, within the ANA, of a section of museums will contribute to a more complete understanding of Khmer civilization.
The rehabilitation of the Northern Baray to increase water resources is accompanied by the development eco-tourist programs facilitated by regular campaigns of reforestation of the park.