The Organization

Origins of Heritage Watch

Heritage Watch was founded in 2003 by archaeologist Dougald O'Reilly following the rampant looting of Phum Snay, an immense Iron Age burial ground in Cambodia’s northwest. After its discovery in 1999, Phum Snay was decimated by looters seeking its rich grave offerings—beautiful ceramics, iron weapons and gold and bronze jewelry. Dr. O’Reilly led rescue excavations at the site, but 90% of it was already lost. Realizing that an entire chapter of Cambodia’s history was disappearing, he made it his mission to promote the protection of the country’s heritage. To better achieve this goal, he founded Heritage Watch.

What does Heritage Watch Do?

Cambodia’s great archaeological heritage is being decimated by widespread looting.  Heritage Watch is a non-profit organization dedicated to halting this destruction and saving Cambodia’s cultural legacy.

Heritage Watch seeks to:
•    Create through tourism greater public awareness about Cambodia's fascinating heritage.
•    Discourage heritage destruction and the illegal trade of antiquities.
•    Encourage and highlight responsible tourism - including promotion of alternative destinations to alleviate stress on heritage sites.
•    Bring together the private, public and non-governmental sectors in a nation wide campaign of collaboration and cooperation.
•    Encourage businesses to promote the arts, culture, heritage and development projects in Cambodia.
•    Promote Heritage Watch principles directly to the Cambodian community

Heritage Watch Achievements

In its first few years of operations, Heritage Watch has accomplished a great deal. With generous funding from the U.S. Department of State, it launched a national public awareness campaign targeting both those who loot and buy antiquities.
Key milestones of the campaign include:
•    Working at the grass-roots level promoting heritage preservation in a series of village workshops.
•    Producing TV and radio ads to stop looting.
•    Running a telephone hotline to receive reports of looting.
•    Hosting a 2-month exhibition at gallery near Angkor Wat
•    Publishing a comic book and a children’s book for free distribution.
•    Training young Cambodian archaeologists.

But education about heritage preservation can only go so far—immediate action is also needed. Early in 2006, Heritage Watch began rescue excavations at Wat Jas, an Iron Age cemetery in northwestern Cambodia that was increasingly targeted by looters. In addition to this, Heritage Watch documented threatened sites across the country, recording at-risk objects in case they are stolen in the future. And since looting cannot be combated until it is better understood, the organization is actively monitoring the trade in Cambodian antiquities, through auction house sales and the internet.

At the ancient temple complex of Koh Ker, Heritage Watch has an innovative project underway combining preservation with sustainable tourism development.

The Heritage Friendly Business Campaign seeks to enhance the unique character of Cambodia as a destination by rewarding businesses that give back to Cambodia and support its heritage, culture and art.  

International Recognition

What began as a one-man crusade has since become a thriving organization with a high regional profile. Heritage Watch’s Board of Directors includes international leaders in the field of Southeast Asian studies. The organization has frequently been featured in both the national and the international media, including The London Times, The Associated Press, The BBC, and in a documentary on the U.S. Public Broadcasting Station.

Heritage Watch has received international awards for its work to save Cambodia’s cultural heritage, including:

•    The Tourism Cares Award in 2007 for its work at Koh Ker developing sustainable incomes based on tourism and for working with the local population in preserving the site.
•    The Pacific Asia Travel Association’s Gold Award in 2007 for the Heritage Friendly Tourism Campaign.
•    Archaeological Institute of America's (AIA) 2009, Conservation and Heritage Management Award.
•    World Travel and Tourism Council 2009, Tourism for Tomorrow, Destination Stewardship Finalist.

Heritage Watch has twice been the recipient of the U.S. Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Heritage, and has also received awards from UNESCO, Friends of Khmer Culture, Lonely Planet Publications, and number private organizations and donors.
Plans for the Future

Heritage Watch has already initiated a number of important projects, and numerous others are planned for the future. Heritage Watch will further its educational efforts with If The Stones Could Speak, a storybook promoting heritage preservation that will be a key part of a planned youth education program.  A campaign is also underway to petition the governments of Singapore and Thailand to meet the international standard for regulating the antiquities trade by signing the 1970 UNESCO Convention.

Our offices are located at;
 #109, Wat Damnak Village, Sala Komreok
Siem Reap, Cambodia
P.O Box: 93251
Tel: (855) 77 89 66 89

"...the most effective measure now would be to sign more bilateral agreements with countries that are under assault from the antiquities trade..." - Roger Atwood.

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