SC/Rep/2010/06 5 July 2010 Report of the Sub-Committee on Protecting and Respecting Cultural Diversity

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Asian Parliamentary Assembly


5 July 2010

Report of the Sub-Committee on

Protecting and Respecting Cultural Diversity

5 July 2010, Phnom Penh, the Kingdom of Cambodia

1- The Sub-Committee on Protecting and Respecting Cultural Diversity in Asia held its meeting on 5 July 2010 in Phnom Penh, the Kingdom of Cambodia. Delegates from Cambodia, Indonesia, Islamic Republic of Iran, Kuwait, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Maldives, Syrian Arab Republic, and Viet Nam attended the meeting. The list of participants is attached as Annex I.

2- The list of documents before the Sub-Committee included:

2.1- APA Resolution on Cultural Diversity, APA/Res/2008/17

2.2- APA Plan of Action on Protecting and Respecting Cultural Diversity, APA/Res/2007/02/Annex

2.3- Report of the Secretary-General to the Sub-Committee, SG/2009/11, dated 22 June 2009.

2.4- APA/Res/2009/05

2.5- Report of the Secretary-General to the Sub-Committee, SG/Rep/2010/05

3- The Honorable, Mr. Nguon Nhel, the First Vice-President of the National Assembly of the Kingdom of Cambodia, President of the National Parliamentary Group of Cambodia-APA presided over the opening Session.
H. E. Mr. Amir Hossein Zamaninia, APA Assistant Secretary-General made a welcoming statement. (Annex II)
H. E. Mr. Him Chhem, Minister of Culture and Fine Arts of the Kingdom of Cambodia made a keynote speech. (Annex III)
Honorable, Mr. Nguon Nhel made a concluding speech. (Annex IV)

The opening Session ended with a family photo.

4- The agenda was adopted. Honorable, Mr. Chhit Kim Yeat, Senator of the National Assembly of the Kingdom of Cambodia was elected as the Chairperson of the Sub-Committee. Honorable, Mr. Mohamed Thoriq, Member of Parliament of People’s Majlis of the Republic of Maldives was elected as the Vice-Chairperson.
5- The Honorable, Mr. Chhit made an opening statement as the Chairperson. He reviewed the long history and the rich culture of Cambodia and made references to challenges Cambodia faces as regards smuggling of cultural artifacts of Cambodia. He also made references to instances of Cambodian success in returning some cultural objects to Cambodia. As a continent enjoying the oldest and richest civilizations in the world, Asia should make greater effort towards the enhancement of mutual respect and understanding among cultures and civilizations, the Chair said. He supported the proposal in the Secretary-General’s report for establishing an ad-hoc working group to work on developing a common legislation to combat smuggling of cultural objects.
6- The Chairman invited delegates to make a brief introductory remark. Delegates introduced themselves and commented on their affiliations in their parliaments.
7- Representatives from Cambodian Ministry of Culture and fine Art, Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Cult and Religions and APSARA Authority, each made a statement.
The first Speaker, H.E. Mr. Samraing Kamsan, Secretary of State of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, briefed the meeting on the national experience of Cambodia with cultural diversity and emphasized the need for education to protect cultural diversity. He said respecting cultural diversity is essential for survival of Cambodia. He reviewed Cambodian formal policies on different aspects of cultural diversity, including government policies on ethnic and religious groups and their freedom to practice their custom and religions. He also explained Cambodian encouragement of cultural expressions by all groups. He went over the challenges of globalization, insufficient funding to promote culture, lack of networking opportunities and international cooperation and lack of information and knowledge in protecting cultural diversities. He recommended to the APA to focus on preservation of endangered cultural expressions, and more frequent meeting among the artists and experts to exchange experience and best practices in protecting cultural diversity.
The second speaker, Mr. Neb Samouth, Deputy Director-General, Ministry of Tourism, commented on the linkage between culture and tourism in Cambodia. He underlined that Cambodian policy on tourism is premised on cultural tourism to share with the world the Cambodian national experience of thousand Temples. He also made a presentation to the meeting with high emphasis on cultural and eco-tourism attractions in Cambodia. He expounded on how tourism could serve as an efficient tool to provide incentives to people and promote respect for cultural diversity.
The third speaker, H.E. Mr. Plok Phorn, Secretary of State, Ministry of Cult and Religion, elaborated on Cambodian policy regarding freedom of religions. Buddhism is the main religion of Cambodia where nearly 90 percent of population adheres to it. The influence of Buddhism on Khmer culture is undeniable. Cambodia emphasizes on education in order to promote respect for cultural diversity. Cambodia, he said, has no religious conflict and that there is natural interaction between adherents of various religious groups.
The fourth speaker, Mr. Ly Vanna, Director of Preah Norodom Sihanouk Angkor Museum, APSARA Authority, made a presentation on “How to save the Angkor site? UNESCO has listed Angkor site as a world heritage in danger in 1992. The presentation focused on a number of measures Cambodia and the international community have adopted to protect Angkor. These measures include: ratification of relevant international conventions; creation of the ICC-Angkor and the establishment of the APSARA Authority; elaboration of Cultural Heritage Protection Laws, other Royal Decrees, and Sub-decrees devoted to the safeguarding of Cambodian Cultural Heritage. Finally the presentation reported on a series of international cooperation project in Angkor. (Annex V)
8- The Honorable Delegate from Malaysia made some observations about the need to balance the market demand for tourism and preservation of local cultures without compromising the authenticities of local culture, and sought further clarification on the national experience of Cambodia on this challenge of globalization and modern culture. He suggested that the meeting can potentially spend several hours of deliberation on this subject. The respondents from Cambodia emphasized the important role of education to safeguard and preserve local culture in the face of growing forces globalization and tourism market.
9- Assistant Secretary-General made an oral presentation of the report of the Secretary-General on Protecting and Respecting Cultural Diversity in Asia. He also recognized Senator Tan SRI Datuk Dr. Jins Shamsudin, member of House of Senate Parliament of Malaysia, as a legendary artist-politician and expressed the hope that leaders like him would take the lead in protecting cultural diversity through the medium of movies.
10- The Chairman invited statement from delegates and general debate then ensued.
11- The delegates welcomed the Report of the Secretary-General and underlined the importance and relevance of enhancing Asian capacity to fight smuggling of Cultural objects.
12- Islamic Republic of Iran: He stressed the need to use high technology in the cause of protecting cultural diversity. The smuggling of Asian cultural items, he said, is a major challenge to many Asian nations. He elaborated on how to protect our heritage. First, it would be promoting closer cooperation among Asian nations to prevent smuggling of cultural objects. As the representative of Iranian people with rich culture and heritage, he said, he wishes to make some suggestion to promote Asian capacity to prevent smuggling of cultural objects, including development of common legislation. He referred to a number of principles in the Secretary-General’s Report on promoting common legislation on combating smuggling cultural objects. He also underlined the importance of engaging artists in this endeavor under APA leadership.
13- Kuwait: He emphasized that dialogue and understanding among cultures and religions will foster Asian common values and enhance cooperation and integration, peace and friendship while diminishing the risk of discrimination, violence and war. He underlined the importance of coordination between APA and UNESCO. He also emphasized the need to protect the cultural heritage of the Palestinians under occupation.
14- Lao: Lao made a video presentation of about 10 minutes on Lao people national experience with cultural diversity.
15- Malaysia: in order to protect cultural diversity, Malaysia promotes multi-cultural festivals and national open houses. Malaysia is a multi-cultural, multi-linguistic and multi-religious country. We share a lot in common with countries surrounding us. We also have an Asian film festival. We also have a national strategy for cultural and national integration. Malaysia promotes the concept of “one Malaysia” to promote cultural exchanges and harmony. Film has an important role in this respect. The Speaker said that he has had a leading role in 48 films, and believes films have a great potential and an undeniable influence on cultural integration and harmony.
The second Malaysian Speaker spoke about the challenges facing Asian countries in protecting Asian cultures. In addition to the four challenges mentioned by Cambodian presenters, he thought the fifth challenge is that the young high achievers concentrate on science and technology and leave study of cultures to less-than-high-quality people. He emphasized the need for Asian governments to strike a balance between political and economic approach to development and those of a psycho-cultural approach.
16- Maldives: Language is the most important pillar of the prevailing culture in Maldives. Maldives parliament has only recently adopted legislation to protect national culture, particularly the Maldives language. We have also submitted application to UNESCO to register some of our sites and historic mosques as the world heritage sites. As a Buddhist nation, 900 years ego before embracing Islam, Maldives is home to many Buddhist temples and we are preserving them as our cultural heritage. We need to mobilize further educational campaign about the need to protect these cultural sites.
17- Syrian Arab Republic: He drew the attention of the delegates to the ongoing effort of the Israeli regime to alter the Palestinian and Arab culture in the occupied territories. He also referred to the inhuman blockade of the Palestinian people in Gaza, where people are deprived of the very basic necessities of everyday life. There, the Zionist Israeli regime has waged a war of culture in addition to its murder and destruction. He called on APA to increase its effort on protecting and respecting cultural diversity all over Asia, particularly in occupied territories.
18- Indonesia: Protecting and respecting cultural diversity has become a common challenge in Asia. It is an asset to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development. At the same time, we also have to be aware of the fast growing technology. This technology has further added to complexity of social interactions, increase the comment grown between individual and help to gradually shape collective identity. We support APA efforts, particularly the effort to focus to preserve our cultural heritage and prevent smuggling of cultural objects, which includes not only tangible and intangible cultural expressions but also hereditary cultural heritage. We call upon those APA members that have not yet joined international instruments of UNESCO on this subject to do so as soon as possible. Indonesia supports establishment of the APA ad-hoc working group to enhance Asian capacity to protect and preserve our cultural heritage and prevent their smuggling by developing a common legislation on the same.
19- Cambodia: Cultural diversity can be understood in terms of diversity within our communities and families. Family is the environment in which differing cultures shape. We have over 4 billion people in Asia. Families cherish the differences among their members. We must preserve our individuality and the individuality of our fellow family members. John Hume once said that difference is the essence of humanity and an accident of life and should never be a source of conflict. We are diverse, but we need to come together in harmony and dialogue.
20- Kuwait suggested that the Committee would take note of the Israeli atrocities in occupied territories to alter the cultural character of Palestinian and Arab culture. The Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran supported the Suggestion.
21- Based on the above debate and deliberations the Sub-Committee recommends the following draft resolution to the First meeting of the Executive Council in 2010, to be forwarded to the Fifth APA Plenary for consideration and adoption:

5 July, 2010

Draft Resolution on
Protecting and Respecting Cultural Diversity in Asia

We, the Members of the Asian Parliamentary Assembly,
Recalling APA Resolutions, APA/Res/2009/05, APA/Res/2008/17 and APA/Res/2007/02 on Protecting and Respecting Cultural Diversity in Asia;
Welcoming the report of the Secretary-General on Protecting and Respecting Cultural Diversity, SG/Rep/2010/13 Dated 22 June, 2009, submitted to the meeting of the Sub-Committee held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on 5-6 July, 2010;
Recognizing the significant role of parliaments both in strengthening national cultural policies and in harmonizing Asian approach for respecting cultural diversity, and protecting Asian cultural heritage, including tangible, non-tangible cultural objects as well as hereditary cultural heritage;
Relying on the cultural diversity as well as the common heritage of Asian civilizations in promoting the inter- religious and inter-cultural dialogue;
Expressing determination to facilitate integration in Asia through respecting cultural diversity and promoting dialogue and understanding;
Expressing Concern about smuggling of cultural items, particularly those that are in areas under foreign occupation;
Encouraging relevant government agencies to increase facilitation, consular services as appropriate for citizens of Asian countries to allow for greater people-to-people interaction;

  1. Welcome the Report of the Secretary-General contained in SG/Rep/2010/13, dated 22 June 2010;

  2. Affirm the role of parliaments to raise public awareness about the imperative of promoting respect for cultural diversity as a source of strength in Asia;

  3. Recognize that tolerance is one of the fundamental values of humanity, which entails an active promotion of respect for cultural diversity, culture of peace and dialogue among civilizations;

  4. Condemn Israeli attempt to alter the cultural heritage of Palestinian population under occupation, particularly in and around the city of Al-Qods, urge international organizations, including the United Nations to continue to demand Israeli forces to withdraw troops from the Haram Ibrahimi Mosque in the city of Al-Khalil, and from Bilal Bin Rabah Mosque, to allow unimpeded access to Muslims and Christians to their places of worship and request APA Troika Plus to continue to inform, on a regular basis, the APA Member Parliaments about the unfolding developments on the ground;

  5. Express determination to prevent cultural homogenization in the context of globalization and the fast-growing technology, through increased intercultural and interreligious exchanges guided by the promotion and protection of cultural diversity;

  6. Urge Asian states, including parliaments and governments to develop an approach to sustainable development that takes into account not only politico-economic factors but also psych-cultural factors;

  7. Recognize the responsibility of parliaments to actively promote values against racism and intolerance; optimize the benefits of diversity within and among all nations, particularly Asian nations, and promote principles and values such as justice, equality and non-discrimination, democracy, fairness and friendship, tolerance and respect within and among communities and nations, in particular through public information and educational programs to raise awareness and understanding of the benefits of cultural diversity;

  8. Call upon all actors on the international scene to build an international order based on inclusion, justice, equality and equity, human dignity, mutual understanding and promotion of and respect for cultural diversity and fundamental human rights, and to reject all manifestations of exclusion and arrogance that are based on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance;

  9. Underline the importance of strengthening coordination between APA and international and regional organizations such as UNESCO, ISESCO and relevant Asian NGOs active in this field, to both exchange experience and provide technical support for the implementation of APA Plan of Action on Protecting and Respecting Cultural Diversity;

  10. Consider the outbound smuggling of cultural objects from Asia to constitute a threat to the richness of Asian cultural heritage, and underline the important role of parliaments to both raise public awareness about this challenge and to strengthen, where necessary, legislative basis to fight smuggling of cultural objects, in Asia;

  11. Urge Member Parliaments to ratify international conventions such as the International Convention for the Safeguarding of World Natural and Cultural Heritage and also the International Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage;

  12. Endorse Section A under Common Legislation in Secretary-General’s Report, particularly the principles enumerated there and annexed to this resolution to serve as guidelines for further work to develop a model legislation with a view to eventually developing a legislation that Member Parliaments may consider adopting, as common legislation, on the basis of their own internal procedure, to enhance Asian capacity to combat smuggling of cultural objects in Asia;

  13. Decide to establish an open-ended ad-hoc working group composed of APA delegates from at least three member parliaments, including delegates from…,… and… to work together, as appropriate and in the context of paragraph 12 above, to prepare a draft common legislation to enhance Asian capacity to combat smuggling of cultural objects in Asia and to present a progress report, in coordination with the Secretary-General, to the meeting of the Sub-Committee in 2011.

  14. Request the Secretary-General to continue to engage artists in this endeavor and sponsor an award to be presented annually to an Asian artist; author, poet, film maker, painter, etc, who best conveys the APA message of Asian cooperation and integration;

  15. Encourage Parliaments and governments of Asian countries to promote dialogue and understanding among cultures and religions to foster Asian common values and enhance cooperation, harmony and integration, peace and friendship;

  16. Welcome The proposal contained in Secretary-General’s Report about the decision of the Islamic Parliament of Iran and the Iranian Center for Inter-religious Dialogue (CID) to jointly host an “International Conference on Dialogue among Religions and Culture in Asia” in 2011 and request the hosts to provide timely and detailed information on substantive and organizational arrangements for the Conference to member Parliaments through the Secretary-General so as to ensure wide participation from across Asia;

  1. Request the Secretary-General to seek the views of Member Parliaments on their efforts to implement this resolution and to submit a report thereon to the next meeting of the Sub-Committee.

Annex to draft Resolution

Principles to study for drafting common legislation

1. Lawful exchange of cultural and historical properties enriches cultural and social existence of nations; strengthens mutual respect and leads to amity and friendship among them,

2. Movable cultural heritage of every nation is considered as fundamental elements of culture and civilization of that nation, and an integral part of regional and human culture and civilization and thus necessitates regional cooperation to fight theft and smuggling of cultural properties,

3. Protection and safeguarding of historical cultural properties from the perils of unlawful excavations, theft and smuggling, is inter alia the duty of the governments,

4. Clandestine excavations in archeological sites, theft, illicit import and export of cultural properties constitutes as one of the main reasons for the cultural impoverishment of the countries of the origin of these objects.

5. Establishment and strengthening of a proper system of management to protect immovable cultural heritage and reinforce coordination and cooperation among concerned institutions for combating theft and smuggling of cultural properties,

6. Documentation, preparation and completion of an inventory of national cultural properties,

7. Proper supervision over archeological excavations, standardization of the means to protect cultural items at the site of discovery,

8. Taking educational steps to enhance public awareness on the necessity of protecting cultural objects,

9. Encouraging and developing the educational, scientific and technical institutions required for protecting cultural items; expanding museums; supporting cooperation and exchanging cultural objects among museums in

Asian countries,

10. Issuing special permit for those cultural objects the export of which is authorized; and thwarting illicit import and export of cultural items with no permit, and restitution thereof to the country of origin,

11. Promoting international cooperation to combat smuggling of cultural items with the countries of origin on restitution of cultural properties as well as extradition of those charged with theft and smuggling of cultural items,

12. Stress on the inalienable right of every country concerning classification and declaring as non-transferable certain cultural properties and preventing entry into the national territory of those items.

22 - The Sub-Committee expressed appreciation to the Senate and the National Assembly of the Kingdom of Cambodia for their hospitality and excellent arrangements for the deliberation of the APA delegates.


Annex 1

List of Participants

Meeting of the

Sub-Committee on Protecting and Respecting Cultural Diversity in Asia

05-06 July 2010, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

(In alphabetical order)


Delegates (MP)


1. Cambodia

H.E Mr. Chhit Kim Yeat

H.E Mrs. Nin Saphon

H.E Mr. Nhem Thavy

H.E Mr. Ly Narun

H.E Mr. Zakaryya Adam

H.E Mrs. Em Ponna

H.E Mr. Hem Khan

H.E Mr. Chea Chamroeun

H.E Mr. Sao Leng

2. Indonesia

Hon. Mrs. Evita Nursanty

Hon. Mrs. Herlini Amran

Mr. Heriono Adi Anggoro (Secretary to Delegation)

Mr. Agus Salim (Secretary to Delegation)

Mrs. Rima Diah Pramudyawati (Secretary to Delegation)

Ms. Angela A. Soewono

(Embassy to the Kingdom of Cambodia)

3. Iran

Hon. Mr. Seyed Ramezan Shojaei Kiasari

Hon. Mr. Amir Taher Khani

Mr. Mohammad Hossein Mozaffai

Mr. Bahman Pour Dell Nejad (Interpreter)

4. Kuwait

Hon. Mr. Ali Alomair

Mr. Theyab Aldaihani

(Secretary to Delegation)

5. Lao PDR

Hon. Mr. Bovangeun XAPHOUVONG

Mr. Somkiethtisack KINGSADA

(Secretary to Delegation)

6. Malaysia

Hon. Mr. Jins Shamsudim

Hon. Mr. Firdaus Abdullah

Ms. Emilda MD Yusop

(Secretary to Delegation)

7. Maldives

Hon. Mr. Abdul Azeez Jamaal Abu Bakuru

Hon. Mr. Mohamed Thariq

8. Syrian

Hon. Mr. Mohammad Alftaih

Hon. Mr. Fawaz Nassour

Hon. Mr. Khalil Ibrahim Alabid

9. Viet Nam

Hon. Mr. Vo Van Thuong

Mr. Ha Hong Ha

(Secretary to Delegation)

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