Heritage Watch is currently running an initiative called 'Heritage for Kids' in an effort to stimulate an appreciation of heritage and culture at a young age and to highlight the importance of heritage preservation and education about the past to a new generation of young Cambodians. The Heritage for Kids program is integrated into the primary and secondary school curriculum in Banteay Meanchey.
The program includes education packs containing a lesson plan used by teachers to highlight the issues of environmental degradation and heritage destruction and the importance of these resources to the country. Along with the lesson plan that takes about a day to work through and involves group planning and discussion, the pack includes copies of the Heritage Watch comic book and Children's book.
The program, in collaboration with the APSARA Authority, expanded to Siem Reap Province in 2018, based on the demonstrated success. The project was recognised as a Finalist for the Tourism for Tomorrow Award by the World Travel and Tourism Council in 2018 in Buenos Aries, Argentina.
In 2016 Heritage Watch collaborated with the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts to launch a permanent exhibition, "Ancestors of the Khmer Empire" at the Provincial Museum in Banteay Meanchey Province. The idea was to create a teaching environment that illustrated the importance of cultural heritage and to showcase the rich archaeological history of the region. The exhibition is now an important part of the Heriage for Kids program and the children and other vistors are impressed by the array of metal tools, weapons and ceramics on display (all scientifically excavated)!
Early in 2010, Heritage Watch received a site preservation grant from Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) for a two-year community stewardship program at Banteay Chhmar, the late 12th century temple complex remotely situated in northeast Cambodia near the border with Thailand. The site has suffered considerable damage through encroaching growth of jungle and aggressive looting for years.
Heritage Watch, working in partnership with Global Heritage Fund, used the fund from AIA to assist with community development. Heritage Watch’s core initiative here is to ensure the sustainability in site preservation by involving the local community and helping them to understand the value of their heritage and its importance for economic development. The main goal of the project is to ensure that the benefits of tourism development flow back to the local community and is distributed appropriately amongst community stakeholders. This strategy, involving English language training, Guide training and heritage awareness training increased local interest in the preservation of Banteay Chhmar and enlists the general public in protecting the site and developing tourism services in a sustainable manner.
Heritage Watch launched an innovative project of heritage protection and poverty reduction at one of Southeast Asia’s largest temple complexes, the ancient Khmer capital of Koh Ker in 2007. This tenth century site, home to dozens of magnificent temples, was isolated for much of the last century by war, landmines, and poor roads. But due to recent demining efforts and improved roads, Koh Ker is now poised to become a major tourist destination.
Through the project, Heritage Watch promoted the protection of the temple complex while providing a sustainable development strategy. These people are among the poorest in Cambodia, barely eking out a living through subsistence farming and forest scavenging. Furthermore, a large percentage are disabled landmine victims. This poverty has naturally exacerbated looting at Koh Ker, which was heavily plundered in the 1990s. However, much of this remarkable site is still intact, and its future protection hinges on the local community being able to benefit from the coming economic boom.
Heritage Watch provided training in heritage protection and conservation for the local community, organizing and equipping community patrols to protect the temples from looting. Heritage Watch established a baseline survey of past looting at the temples, and using this, recent thefts can easily be detected. These patrols were provided with training in basic environmental management, and can pick up litter, empty trash bins, et cetera.
Training in tourism at a basic level was also provided, so that the villagers could establish sustainable businesses near the temples—such as refreshment stands, oxcart tours of the site, and traditional craft sales. Village women and the disabled will be trained in the production of these crafts, thus providing for some of the most disadvantaged groups in the community.
Income was generated by the villagers through the sale of craft goods, ox-cart rides, and other products. Perhaps most importantly, this project illustrated to the entirety of Cambodia that protecting heritage is more financially advantageous than destroying it. Heritage Watch would like to thank Friends of Khmer Culture, Pepy Ride, the Fonds Famille vanBeek, Lonely Planet and our private donors for their generous contributions to this project.
In 2007, with the cooperation and support of the Ministry of Tourism, Heritage Watch put into motion an exciting and dynamic campaign with seven main aims;
Promote Responsible Tourism
Promote the arts, culture, heritage and development projects in Cambodia.
Discourage Heritage Destruction
Encourage Private Sector Philanthropy
Inspire Visitors to Discover more of Cambodia's Fascinating Heritage
Encourage Longer Stays in Cambodia
Alleviate Stresses on Heritage Sites by Suggesting Alternative Routes/Destinations
By supporting and collaborating with other Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), local business and the government, Heritage Watch promoted exciting tourist activities through the publication of a free magazine, TouchStone. This encouraged tourists to stay in Cambodia longer as they enjoy and participate in unique tours, arts festivals, arts and crafts expositions, architecture tours, and expert speaker tours. All these activities were promoted through TouchStone magazine a tourism magazine produced by the Heritage Watch team.
The campaign promoted businesses that were certified Heritage Friendly. Certified businesses met criteria that encouraged responsible tourism and developed local economic sustainability.
In 2005, HeritageWatch began regular village workshops aimed at educating rural communities about the importance of protecting their local heritage. Attendees included local officials, villagers and monks. These workshops were an important part of HeritageWatch’s national education campaign—by going directly into those communities at threatened archaeological sites, HeritageWatch is reaching out to potential looters and educating them about the importance of protecting the past.
In 2006, Heritage Watch began regular educational workshops for the employees of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in areas of the country where looting is heaviest. These seminars, in addition to stressing the importance of protecting cultural heritage, provided training on how to recognize recent looting and how to properly report it. NGO workers—especially those working in mine clearance or wildlife protection—are often the first people to discover looting in remote parts of the country. They are thus a great resource for protecting archaeological sites; a resource which has not been tapped until now.
Beginning in 2005 Heritage Watch created the DHARMA — the Database of Historical and Archaeological Regulations for the Management of Antiquities. For the first time, lawyers, archaeologists, law enforcement officers, government officials, and collectors will have easy access to current national and international legislation affecting the management of heritage resources.
The DHARMA database was handed over in July 2012 to both the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts and to UNESCO Cambodia.
Heritage Watch is extremely grateful to Terressa Davis and her team of interns for compiling this useful database and uncovering laws that may have a lasting impact on the preservation of Cambodia's rich heritage.
Early in 2006, HeritageWatch began rescue excavations at the 2000 year-old site of Wat Jas, a large and important center during the Iron Age. Starting in late 2005, it was heavily targeted by looters seeking the ceramics, tools, and beads found in its burial grounds. Sadly, by the time HeritageWatch reached the site, it had nearly been decimated. The rescue excavations, led by Heritage Watch staff and staff from the Royal University of Fine Arts, extensively recorded the damage, mapping and taking aerial photographs to fully illustrate the scale of destruction.
Heritage Watch has over the years produced a number of publications, including several issues of TouchStone magazine as part of the Heritage Friendly Tourism Campaign. Other publications include a comic book and children's book that are still in use as part of the Heritage For Kids Project. "Wrath of the Phantom Army" has been a very successful comic book that was distributed nationally and "If the Stones Could Speak" is a bilingual book aimed for use in schools.