Foreign Affairs

Preserving, enhancing Laos heritage: signing of a new project in Champassak, Savannakhet

The Ecole Francaise de l’Extreme Orient (EFEO) has singed a financing agreement for a heritage preservation and development project that shall be implemented in Champassak and Savannakhet provinces.

The signing ceremony held on Feb 10 in Vientiane between Mr Christophe Marquet director of the Ecole Francaise de l’Extreme Orient (EFEO), and Mr Matthieu Bommier, the French Development Agency (AFD) Country Director.

Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Vat Phu – Champassak, in southern Laos, is home to important heritage treasures – archaeological, architectural, intangible and natural – that are still unknown by visitors.

Champassak district derives limited benefit from this cultural and natural capital, as the majority of visitors do not spend the night there. On the other hand, Savannakhet Province, the most populated in the country, is not today a tourist destination.

However, it has an untapped potential based on a wide variety of historical testimonies, including in particular a treasure from the period of the Sikhottaboon Empire (kingdom from the 7th to the 10th century), which is not visible to the public today.

To meet these challenges, AFD and the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism designed a 6-million-euro project called Cultural Heritage Management, Preservation and Touristic Attractiveness (CHAMPA). The project will be implemented by the Lao authorities and by the Ecole francaise

d’ExtrA�me Orient (EFEO).

The grant agreement between AFD and EFEO was signed on 10 February, the one between AFD and the Government of Laos will be in the coming weeks.

“The EFEO’s involvement in Laos has a long history, from its pioneering work at the beginning of the 20th century to its relocation in 1993. With this project, a new stage has been reached to promote the training of national specialists and to deepen and enrich the understanding of heritage. For knowledge of this heritage and its enhancement must go hand in hand at the heart of a logic of balanced and sustainable development,” said Christophe Marquet, director of the EFEO.

In concrete terms, the project will provide a better understanding of the heritage, in particular through a LIDAR (light detection and ranging, airborne laser) survey, an innovative procedure already implemented by the EFEO on the Angkor site in Cambodia, making it possible to draw up a complete, high-resolution inventory of the cultural and natural landscape and potentially discover sites that are unknown today. Archaeological excavations will also be carried out.

Tourism development plans will be drawn up in order to create genuine tourist “destinations” that will encourage tourists to extend their stay and thus develop economic benefits for the local populations, particularly through the creation of local jobs. The treasure of Savannakhet will be showcased in a renovated museum. Finally, the project will provide the population with improved public spaces, and will support local territorial dynamics through a call for projects from associative and private actors.

“After 20 years of successful cooperation to preserve cultural heritage in Luang Prabang, AFD is pleased to engage further in less known sites of Champasak and Savannakhet. We believe that EFEO unique experience in Asia, and especially in Angkor Wat, will be very valuable to improve the knowledge and the preservation of Champassak and Savannakhet, said Mr Matthieu Bommier, Director of AFD in Laos.

Source: Lao News Agency