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Legal Protection of Cultural Heritage During the Protectorate


This research project focuses on the legal protection of cultural heritage in Cambodia during the protectorate period. It examines the historical developments and influence of foreign cultural policies, particularly French legislation between 1887 and 1913, on Cambodia’s legal framework and the Cambodian population’s relationship with their cultural heritage. The study highlights the role of the École française d’Extrême Orient (EFEO), the institution responsible for safeguarding cultural heritage created during this period by the French authorities, and exported French legislation in the preservation, restoration, and conservation practices of cultural heritage in Cambodia.Through a comparative analysis of French law at the time, this research aims to shed light on the Cambodian legal framework’s effects on cultural heritage and its significance within the context of colonial cultural policy.


Speaker: Mélina McDonald is a PhD candidate in law at Université Paris II Assas. She holds master’s degrees in art history and international law from the Université de Toulouse and the Sorbonne Paris IV. Her topic, “The Legal Protection of Cambodian Cultural Heritage”, traces the protection of Cambodian cultural heritage (tangible, intangible, and underwater) from the French Mandate to the present day. In addition to providing a comprehensive list of applicable national and international legislation, her project will also examine the effectiveness of their enforcement.

Moderator: Prof. John Marston, from the Center for Asian and African Studies of El Colegio de México in Mexico City, serves as scholar-in-residence at CKS during the second half of 2023. His association with CKS dates back many years- he has received CKS research funding through our Fellowship programs and coordinated a CKS capacity-building project. Marston’s publications include History, Buddhism, and New Religious Movements in Cambodia (with Elizabeth Guthrie), Anthropology and Community in Cambodia, and Ethnicity, Borders, and the Grassroots Interface with the State. His articles have appeared in multiple scholarly journals and in edited volumes published by Cornell University Press, University of Hawaii Press, Edinburgh University Press, Palgrave, El Colegio de México, and Ateneo de Manila University Press. 

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the publications and through webinars are solely those of the authors or speakers. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Center for Khmer Studies, Inc. The designations employed in the publications and through the webinars, and the presentation of material therein, do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of The Center for Khmer Studies, Inc. as to the matters discussed therein. The responsibility for opinions expressed in the publications and webinars are solely those of the authors or speakers, and the publication does not constitute an endorsement by The Center for Khmer Studies, Inc. of the opinions, views or issues discussed therein.


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