The Japanese embassy has announced that it will honour Ang Choulean, a Cambodian lecturer in historical anthropology at the Royal University of Fine Arts (RUFA), with the “Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon”. The award will be conferred in recognition of his contribution to the promotion of academic exchanges and mutual understanding between Japan and Cambodia.
Choulean was previously awarded the Fukuoka Grand Prize in 2011.
The embassy said the award will be presented on May 12, at the Japanese ambassador’s residence, in the presence of Son Soubert, an adviser to King Norodom Sihamoni.
The award was included in the 2022 Spring Conferment of Decorations, but Choulean was outside of the country at the time.
While addressing the 8th National Reading Day on March 11, he downplayed the award, suggesting that it was “basic reading” that earned him the honour.
“I mention the award not to brag, but to point out that even though it will be presented because I helped foster friendship between Japan and Cambodia in the cultural field, that was never my intention. Basically, the decoration is the result of my love of reading,” he said.
“When I was young, I liked reading books and watching movies. I liked Japanese movies and then started reading Japanese literature. It was my love of reading that led me to learn so much about Japan, not the idea that I could somehow foster friendship between the two nations,” he explained.
He added that he left Cambodia for France prior to the civil war, and had lived overseas for about two decades. As he had time on his hands, he began studying the history of Japan. This was how he came to interact with Japanese intellectuals.
“Later, I met Japanese friends and professors. They were fascinated by me, as I was aware of a lot of their literature. That is how I came to be awarded the Order of the Rising Sun,” he said.
The embassy noted that Choulean had supported the work of many Japanese researchers and institutions in the field of the conservation and restoration of archaeological sites.
“His assistance enabled the smooth operation of many projects and contributed to the enhancement of Japan’s prestige. These decorations are conferred on foreign nationals who made significant contributions to the promotion of friendly relations and mutual understanding with Japan,” it said.
Pit Chamnan, standing secretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, was also awarded the Order of the Rising Sun by the Japanese government last year.