Comment on DOS-2012-0063-0003
The is a Comment on the U.S. Department of State (DOS) Notice: Notice of Meeting of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee
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Dear Prof. Gerstenblith and other Committee Members-
Thank you for this opportunity to comment on the proposed renewal of the Cambodian MOU.
I attended the last CPAC meeting on Cambodia some years ago. At that time, two issues stood out. First, the Cambodian Ambassador forthrightly admitted that the Cambodian military was responsible for looting many archaeological sites. Second, a representative from Heritage Watch, a group that evidently received funding from the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), was the main spokesperson for those advocating the extension and expansion of the current restrictions. To me at least, this potentially raised serious conflict of interest issues as well as the question whether State Department money was being directly or indirectly used to lobby the State Department itself.
With regard to the first issue, Cambodia was supposed to address questions of corruption as part of its MOU with the United States. See MOU Art. II F . CPAC should closely monitor Cambodia's efforts in these regards, particularly given news that in the interim a politically connected rubber company was allowed to level an important archaeological site in order to put up a housing complex. See http://www.devata.org/2010/09/bulldozers-destroy-priceless-archaeological-site-in-cambodia/. With regard to the second issue, particularly given our own Government's demands that others be fully transparent in their dealings, any current funding of Heritage Watch or related advocacy groups be fully explained to both the public and CPAC, with assurances being given that no public money is being used to advocate for renewing this MOU .
More generally, it is my belief that both Cambodia and the US should concentrate their efforts on protecting major archaeological sites like Angkor Wat from looting, rather than restricting trade in the most common of artifacts, the trade in which promotes cultural understanding.
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Comment Period Closed
Feb 6 2013, at 11:59 PM ET
Tracking Number: 1jx-8397-owlr
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Date Posted: Jan 24, 2013
Submitter Name: Peter Tompa