Interview with Chhay Visoth, Cambodia

We met Chhay Visoth, Director of Museum Department, Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, Kingdom of Cambodia.

Why do Europe-Asia relations matter to you?
There has been significant progress in Europe-Asia relations over the centuries. Numerous historical records demonstrate that the two continents began a close relationship in the 16th century, since when they have engaged in exchange in areas such as culture, trade, politics and education. We have learned from each other and built mutual understanding based on good faith.
The contributions of European culture in the region of Cambodia are an example of the close relationship between Asia and Europe, especially since the late 19th century, when Cambodia became a French protectorate. Examples documented in Cambodia include the introduction of Christianity, as well as European urban structures, architecture and arts.

This year the ASEM Cultural Festival will be in Cambodia, and…
… it will be a great opportunity to promote the sophisticated artworks of the Khmer Collections. Through this unique event, the National Museum of Cambodia (NMC) will be able to present numerous artworks and religious phenomena that are deep-rooted in Khmer culture.
The presentation of the Museum’s collections through the ASEM Cultural Festival will raise awareness in Europe of how Hinduism and Buddhism were the main religious practices in Cambodian history. It will also show that art peaked between the pre-Angkorean and the post-Angkorean periods.

How important are international exchanges to the NMC?
The National Museum of Cambodia houses the world’s largest and most important collection of Khmer art. The Museum plays an active role in collecting, displaying and preserving Khmer art from the country’s provinces and cities, as well as works that have been repatriated from around the world.
The exhibition, A Passage to Asia: 25 Centuries of Exchange between Asia and Europe, allows the National Museum of Cambodia to foster long-term collaboration with other museums in the region and in the European Union. The Museum contributed nine objects to the exhibition, a significant participation that I expect to promote our heritage and make crucial contributions to cultural understanding and sharing.

Can you tell us more about these sophisticated artworks?
There are five sandstones, two bronzes, one wood and one ceramic. They illustrate the main religious practices in Cambodia and show the development of Cambodian art over time. They demonstrate the core idea that Buddhism and Hinduism have played an important role in Khmer culture.

ASEM Cultural Festival – Cambodia 2021

The ASEM Cultural Festival 2021 will be held as an official side event of the 13th ASEM Summit (ASEM13). The Festival is co-organised by the European Union (EU), the Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts and the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF). It is supported financially by the EU and the Royal Government of Cambodia. Through the celebration of artistic and cultural diversity from Asia and Europe, the Festival aims to strengthen the connections between ASEM Partners.

The National Museum of Cambodia (NMC) is the largest national museum in Cambodia and has been open since 1920. It houses the largest and most important collection of Khmer art in the world. In 2021, the Museum’s collection had almost 18,000 objects. The main collections consist of stone, metal and ceramic objects, followed by wooden objects and textiles. Most of the collections relate to Hinduism and Buddhism, the two main religions practised in Cambodia.