ICCROM joins the Cambodian people and all lovers of heritage in mourning the loss of the Cambodian Vice Prime Minister Samdech Vibol Panha Sok An, who died on 15 March 2017. He was 67 years old.
HE Sok An, as a high government figure, played an active and dynamic role in the management and conservation of cultural heritage in his own country and at an international level. Cambodian heritage is exceptional, and Sok An reflected this in his strong commitment to it over the years.
As President of the APSARA Authority, responsible for the management of the World Heritage property of Angkor, Sok An attended all sessions of the International Coordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of Angkor (ICC-Angkor) from 2004 up until February 2017, when he was absent due to ill health. He ensured that decisions of the World Heritage Committee concerning Angkor were always given the necessary attention, and played a key role in the protection, conservation and sustainable development of the site. He was also active in efforts to inscribe the Temple of Preah Vihear on the World Heritage List, which met with success in July 2008.
He served as Chairperson of the 37th Session of the World Heritage Committee in Phnom Penh in 2013. This meeting coincided with the return of the first of the group of statues that had been looted during the 1970s from the Temple of Prasat Chen in Ko Ker. Sok An personally followed up this issue by working closely with the Ecole Française d’Extrême Orient (EFEO), UNESCO and the United States government to ensure the return of the remaining stolen statues.
Vice Prime Minister Sok An was a good friend of ICCROM throughout his tenure in office and worked with the organization on numerous occasions on training and conservation issues.
Amongst other collaborations, Sok An expressed gratitude for ICCROM’s 2011 report on damage to the Preah Vihear Temple site, and also warmly welcomed training courses for young Cambodian experts held in collaboration with ICCROM in 2013 and 2014.
The Director-General and staff of ICCROM extend their deepest condolences to Sok An’s family, friends, and professional colleagues, as well as to the Cambodian people.