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APSARA, if it is strong-willed and single-minded, will put the management, the promotion and the exploration of the Khmer cultural heritage into Khmer hands, even while it is a world heritage, into the same hands that sculpted it, that caressed it and protected it for so many centuries. And it will do this in the only way possible : by helping to form a new generation of qualified, caring Khmer specialists - technicians - intellectuals - thinkers and doers, who will be capable, on this international stage, of standing in the present with an arm around the past and eyes on the future.
His Majesty Norodom Sihanouk, King of Cambodia.
In Angkor - a geographical region, an archaeological site and a cultural concept - lies much of Cambodia's future. The Angkorian heritage offers incomparable potential for economic prosperity, which can in turn provide a favorable climate and the means necessary for true protection of the Khmer heritage for the generations to come. Under the present conditions of persistent national poverty in economic as well as administrative terms, and confronted with the opening of Cambodia to a rapidly expanding regional market, the potential wealth of the region lies exposed to unrational exploitation on an unprecedented scale.
It is only in a context of well regulated economic dynamism that the cultural heritage can be protected and can further prosper; in turn, a protected and prospering cultural heritage will make an essential contribution to permanent economic stabilization, ensuring durable international and national interest in Angkor. The enormous challenge facing the Royal Khmer Government at Angkor is thus to transform potentially conflicting interests into permanent resources actively serving the needs of the region and indeed the nation.
To this end, the government has created APSARA, the Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap, in charge of research, protection and conservation of cultural heritage, as well as urban and tourist development. This legislative and institutional framework marks the beginning of a new active role Cambodia will take, responding to the call of her own people in the voice of her King, as well as to that of the international community, in managing Angkor as a national and world heritage for the generations to come.
The creation of APSARA also corresponds to the request of the World Heritage Committee, which temporarily inscribed Angkor on the List of World Heritage Sites in Danger in december 1992. Permanent inscription was at that point dependent upon the Cambodian government taking concrete action in the field. Acknowledging the three years of progress made toward establishing national responsibility in site protection and management, in December of 1995 the World Heritage Committee confirmed Angkor's permanent inscription on the World Heritage List.