Long the domain of French historians and conservators, the ancient site of Angkor has, over the past 25 years, been a veritable hive of conservation activity – a place to consider new techniques in engineering, stone cleaning and repair and a setting in which to experiment with new ways of protecting the surrounding environment. An expression of Cambodia’s growing independence and cultural renewal, Angkor has also been a place where money and expertise from the world community has underwritten the protection of a much-threatened heritage site (see Figure 11.1 ). An important part of the recent history of the extensive site – the park at Angkor includes not only the central shrine of Angkor Wat but more than 40 other monumental sites – these outside involvements continue to colour the nature of the work and the organizational structure of the conservation effort in this Southeast Asian country. 1

The present Cambodian government has welcomed the interventions of the international community. Having lived through over a decade of civil war, political turmoil and foreign occupation, the re-emergent Cambodia of the late twentieth century was not in a position to take over the management of its extraordinary cultural heritage. Unable especially to tackle the enormous task of resurrecting the many neglected monuments within the archaeological park at Angkor, the new government welcomed outside funding and expertise as part of its effort to kick-start a fl agging economy and to restore a sense of pride to the Cambodian people. The fi rst steps in this direction occurred in the late 1980s when Cambodia was still under the control of the Vietnamese. By 1991, and the establishment of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), new work at Angkor was well underway.