Monday, February 16, 2009

Cambodia Plans to lift Ancient Shipwreck from Seafloor

BY BUTH REAKSMEY KONGKEA

The Royal Government of Cambodia plans to lift an ancient shipwreck, along with other artifacts which sank of the coast of Koh Kong Province. The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts (MoCFA) has further plans to build a huge museum to house the ship later on this year.

Khim Sarith, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, said that according to recent research conducted by his Ministry and the Shipwreck Research and Salvage Committee, a centuries-old vessel was discovered off the Southwestern coast of Koh Kong Province.

The Secretary of State said the ship is believed to be a wooden sailing ship laden with pottery and other artifacts that sunk during the 15th or 16th century. He continued that the ship which is 30 meters long and 8 meters wide, has not been identified but hundreds of fragments of ceramics, jars and pottery have been recovered from it.

He said that the ship sank in over 30 meters of water. He pointed out that there had been previous attempts by the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts to bring the ship and other artifacts up but they lacked the money and expertise to retrieve the wreck.

“I am the Project Manager of the Ministry’s Shipwreck Research and Salvage Committee for Koh Kong province,” he said. “I wanted to seek help, both financial and technical from foreign partners to bring up the ancient ship and any other artifacts from the seabed,” he told the Cambodia Weekly during an interview on February 12.

He emphasized that due to the condition of the wreck, the operation would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Referring to the shipwreck renovation, the Secretary of State pointed out that MoCFA plans to build a museum for it in Koh Kong province that will also serve as a place for national and international researchers to conduct their activities.

He said the ministry hoped that the ship museum will become a cultural center for Koh Kong and that it will contribute to progress and development in Cambodia.

“I appeal to all friendly nations to help Cambodia in lifting up the ancient shipwreck. Those who are ready and able to help us, please come directly to meet us at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts for talks on details about planning costs,” he said. “After the talks and agreements, I will make a proposal to the Head of the Royal Government of Cambodia for the final decision on operations.” he added.

The Secretary of State also said that according to report, a number of foreign ships have been found in Southeast Asian waters in recent decades, with many yielding a wealth of artifacts.


“We would be very grateful for any foreign financial and technical support. We think that if we could get this support in time, the shipwreck operation will be complete within the year,” he said.



Ho Vandy, Co-Chairman of the Tourist Working Group and Chairman of the Steering Committee of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents (CATA), said he welcomed MoCFA’s plan.

“I support the Ministry’s plan to raise the ancient ship and to build the museum in Koh Kong province. I think that if the old ship is retrieved and featured as part of a huge museum, it will become a striking and attractive venue for tourists,” he said during an interview with the Cambodia Weekly on February 12.

He continued, “I hope that the ship museum will bring more national and foreign visitors to Koh Kong province. It will also generate more jobs for the people there and help reduce poverty in the region.”

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