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Cultural heritage protection project launched for Champassak, Savannakhet

The Ministry of Planning and Investment and the French Development Agency (AFD) have launched a joint project for preserving and enhancing Lao heritage in Champassak and Savannakhet provinces.
The ceremony for the signing of a financing agreement worth 2.64 million euros for the Cultural Heritage Management, Preservation and Territorial Attractiveness (CHAMPA) Project was held at the Ministry of Planning and Investment on Wednesday.
The event was chaired by the Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment, Dr Kikeo Chanthaboury, and the Country Director of AFD in Laos, Mr Matthieu Bommier, and the French Ambassador, Mrs Florence Jeanblanc-Risler. It was attended by representatives of concerned line ministries, and officials of Champassak and Savannakhet provinces, AFD and the French Embassy.

Dr Kikeo said, “AFD has been a long-standing development partner of the Lao PDR, providing a total of more than 150 million euros since 1994. The CHAMPA Project is a welcome addition to the bilateral portfolio and further reinforces AFD’s position as one of the main contributors to the socio-economic development of the Lao PDR, particularly in the area of cultural and heritage preservation.”
Vat Phou in Champassak, the second site in Laos to be classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001, is located in southern Laos and is home to heritage treasures – archaeological, architectural, intangible and natural – that are still unknown to visitors.
Champassak district derives limited benefit from this cultural and natural capital, as a majority of visitors do not spend time there. Savannakhet, the most populated province in the country, is still not a popular tourist destination. However, it has untapped potential based on a wide variety of historical attractions, including heritage treasures from the period of the Sikhottaboon Empire (from the 7th to the 10th century), which are not visible to the public today.
To popularise these attractions, AFD and the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism have designed the CHAMPA Project worth six million euros. The project will be implemented by Lao authorities, including the World Heritage Site Office of Vat Phou and the Department of Information, Culture and Tourism of Savannakhet, and the Ecole Française d’Extrême Orient (EFEO).
Under this project, tourism development plans will be drawn up to create genuine tourist destinations that will encourage visitors to extend their stay and thus develop economic benefits for local populations, particularly through the creation of jobs.
The treasure of Savannakhet will be showcased in a renovated museum. In addition, the project will provide the local people with improved public spaces, and support local territorial dynamics through a call for projects from associative and private actors.
A first agreement signed between AFD and EFEO on February 10 covers the execution of the first campaign of research and archaeological excavation in Champassak.
AFD and the Ministry of Planning and Investment have now signed the financing agreement of 2.64 million euros for cultural and heritage preservation and tourism promotion activities.
“France and Laos share a long history around cultural heritage in Laos. I believe that a better knowledge of Lao heritage by the Lao people contributes to the national identity,” the French Ambassador said.
Matthieu Bommier, Director of AFD in Laos, said: “After 20 years of successful cooperation to preserve and enhance cultural heritage in Luang Prabang, AFD is pleased to engage further in some less known sites of Champassak and Savannakhet. We believe tripartite cooperation between AFD, Lao authorities and EFEO will be very valuable to improve the knowledge and preservation of the unique culture and heritage of Champassak and Savannakhet, and to help the tourism sector recover steadily and sustainably after the current crisis.”

By Viengdavanh Banphahaksa
(Latest Update June 19, 2020)

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