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Blaise Kilian: Illuminating Cambodia’s Economic Journey and Inspiring a Brighter Future

by Surya Narayan
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In the bustling economic hub and capital city of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, lies a hidden gem of historical and economic significance—the Cambodian Museum of Economy and Money, Preah Srey Içanavarman Museum, also known as SOSORO. This museum offers a unique journey through Cambodia’s economic history, showcasing the evolution of its monetary system over the past 2000 years. At the heart of this remarkable institution is Blaise Kilian, a French-Cambodian visionary and Co-Director of SOSORO. Blaise’s profound knowledge and unwavering dedication have made him an admired figure among intellectuals in Cambodia, as he works tirelessly towards the betterment of the country’s economic sector.

A Passion Ignited

Blaise Kilian’s journey began in France, where he had the privilege of growing up in a multicultural environment due to his father’s civil service career. It was during his school days that Blaise developed a deep fascination for Cambodia, sparked by his Khmer classmates and the book written by King Father, His Majesty Norodom Sihanouk, entitled “Bittersweet Memories.”. Motivated by his newfound love for Cambodia, Blaise immersed himself in the Khmer language and culture, ultimately deciding to make Cambodia his home.

Dedication to Education

Upon his arrival in Cambodia in 1999, Blaise embarked on a path of meaningful engagement with the country. After working for a pioneering local airline, he spent two years as a lecturer in Economics  at the Royal University of Law and Economics (RULE), where he nurtured a generation of students and selected them for scholarships, instilling in them a sense of how hard work can pay off. Many of them have since then had outstanding careers in the public and private sectors. “It is rewarding to have made a small, yet meaningful contribution at the beginning of their success story”. . While continuing to teach, Blaise spent two short years writing press reviews at the French Embassy in Cambodia, where he enhanced his Khmer language skills and understanding of Cambodia’s socio-political landscape.

UNESCO and Beyond

Blaise’s background in Political Science and Economics, combined with his proficiency in the Khmer language, led him to work for the UNESCO office in Cambodia for an impressive nine years, coordinating projects dedicated to the documentation, conservation, and management of cultural heritage. This invaluable experience allowed him to delve deeper into Cambodia’s rich history, cultural heritage, and the intricacies of the Angkor temple complex, including from a tourism industry perspective. As a part of the intellectual community responsible for safeguarding these national treasures, Blaise coordinated  various publications, traveled throughout the country, broadened his knowledge base, and worked closely with the Cambodian authorities responsible for culture and tourism.

Advocacy and Leadership

Blaise’s passion for economic development and public-private partnerships found an outlet when he joined the European Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia as advocacy manager, then Deputy Director, and finally Executive Director. Engaging with different ministries on behalf of the private sector, he played a pivotal role in setting up a platform of public-private dialogue to promote an ever more enabling investment climate in Cambodia. His proudest realization is possibly the supervision of the acclaimed EuroCham White Books, three consecutive sets of recommendations on trade and investment policies that were widely praised by both the private sector and the government for the quality of their contents and their impact on the business landscape. 

SOSORO Museum and the Future

Blaise’s crowning achievement came with his involvement in the National Bank of Cambodia’s Preah Srey Içanavarman Museum – SOSORO. After obtaining Cambodian citizenship, he dedicated himself to this remarkable institution, which provides a divine haven for those interested in economics, monetary systems, history, and culture. “Having become a Cambodian citizen, it’s truly an honor to work for a national institution”. Blaise and his team work tirelessly to educate visitors, particularly young students, about Cambodia’s economic and monetary history, fostering a brighter future for the country. 

The Cambodian Museum of Economy and Money, Preah Srey Içanavarman Museum – SOSORO, offers a comprehensive exploration of Cambodia’s 2000-year history, providing valuable insights into its origins and future trajectory. To truly grasp the nation’s historical journey, a visit to this museum is essential. In addition to its exhibits, SOSORO actively engages in knowledge dissemination by hosting conferences, making publications, and participating in book fairs throughout the country. The museum also participates in the National Bank of Cambodia’s efforts to promote the local currency, Riel, through various events throughout the country. Notably, SOSORO Museum belongs to and is entirely funded by the National Bank of Cambodia, highlighting its significance as a national cultural and educational institution.

Unlocking Cambodia’s Future through Education and Heritage at SOSORO Museum

Blaise Kilian, Co-Director of the SOSORO Museum, emphasizes the crucial role of education in a country’s progress. While stressing the importance of the Cambodian economy’s ongoing diversification and the need to create more value, he firmly believes that investing in education is essential for shaping a promising future. Blaise states, “Education is a catalyst for inclusive growth. Investing in education is paving the way towards a future of  shared prosperity” This quote underscores the significance of educational initiatives and their positive impact on a nation’s development.

While the SOSORO Museum is not free for all visitors, there is a nominal entrance fee that enhances the value of the visit. However, Blaise acknowledges the importance of making the museum accessible to students from different provinces, particularly those in rural areas. To facilitate their visits, he is currently working on creating opportunities for the private sector to sponsor state school visits, enabling rural children to explore and learn about their country’s history and financial system.

Blaise Kilian stands as a shining example of a visionary economist and an unsung hero in Cambodia. His passion for the country, tireless dedication, and profound knowledge have made him a respected figure among intellectuals. Through his role at the SOSORO Museum, Blaise not only enlightens visitors about Cambodia’s economic journey but also actively works towards shaping a better future for the nation.

“Blaise Kilian: A beacon of inspiration, his unwavering dedication to Cambodia and commitment to education illuminate the path to a prosperous future. His profound knowledge and tireless efforts make him a true unsung hero, shaping a brighter tomorrow for generations to come.”

Photos: Preah Srey Içanavarman Museum – SOSORO

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