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For Southeast Asian archaeologists, SPAFA is a well-known organization in the region since most of them participate in the SPAFA activities. However, a number of foreign archaeologists may not be familiar with this organization and the possibility of doing work with SPAFA. We, therefore, take this opportunity to introduce you to SPAFA. The following is an excerpt from "SPAFA: Retrospect and Prospect", SPAFA Journal 3 (1):9-15(1993).

SEAMEO, the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization, was born on 30 November 1965, during the time when the Ministers of Education and the Ministers Responsible for Economic Planning from Asian Countries came to Bangkok, Thailand, to attend a UNESCO conference on education planning.

H.E. Mom Luang Pin Malakul, then the Minister of Education of Thailand, invited his colleagues of five Southeast Asian countries attending the Conference - Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam, to an informal meeting where, for the first time, the ideas about working together for educational development of the region was conceived. Once this seed of idea was planted, it received much care and attention. It grew into a strong regional organization, SEAMEO, which reached its 25 years of existence in November 1990.

Under the auspices of SEAMEO, seven regional centres and one project were created to implement SEAMEO policies and planning in different subject areas of vital importance to the region, and thus it constitutes concerted efforts to meet the main purposes and objectives of SEAMEO, which are in paragraph I Article I of the SEAMEO Charter: "To promote cooperation among the Southeast Asian nations through education, science and culture in order to further respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms which are the birth rights of the people of the world."

SPAFA is one of the Regional Centres created by SEAMEO Council to undertake joint responsibilities to cultivate awareness and appreciation of cultural heritage through collaboration in information dissemination and other relevant programme activities; to promote and help enrich archaeological and cultural activities in the region; to further professional competence in the fields of archaeology and fine arts through regional programmes of activities, and through sharing of resources and experiences; to advance mutual knowledge and understanding among countries of Southeast Asia through regional programmes in archaeology and fine arts (emphasis mine).

SPAFA came into existence, first as a SEAMEO Project on Archaeology and Fine Arts, in March 1978. The launching of its initial operation, the first Development Plan covered a three year phase 1978-1981, with only three member countries - Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand - and focused on the restoration and preeservation of ancient monuments, prehistory, and underwater archaeology. In its Second Development Plan which covered five years, 1981-1986, the programmes in fine arts activities were included. Stress is given to the promotion of the understanding and appreciation of the rich cultural heritage of the region. The plan emphasizes archaeological researches as well as researches dealing with documentation of the vanishing forms of traditional arts, both creative and performing arts, and the continuance of programmes on preservation and conservation of surviving artifacts which abound in the region.

Being a project, the SPAFA organizational structure consisted of a Co-ordination Unit which was based in Bangkok, and a net work of Sub-Centres established in the participating member countries. During the planing stage, in the early 1970s, three Indochina countries, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam were members of SEAMEO. Around the middle of the 1970s, the political situations in these countries prevented them from continuing their membership. In 1976, there were only five SEAMEO members countries, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia. Malaysia and Singapore were not ready to participate in SPAFA.

Arising from the needs expressed by the member states through visits and surveys by the working team to prepare the project personnel, it was decided that in order to achieve the objectives, the nature of activities of the project would be in five areas; i.e. training; seminar and conferences; research and development; personnel exchange; library and documentation. It was also decided that information about the project activities as well as academic and professional knowledge should be disseminated through publication of a journal entitled SPAFA Digest, and the proceedings of workshops and seminars. These information materials are distributed to scholars, researchers and those interested in archaeology, history and fine arts, within the region as well as outside.

The Project achieved its goals successfully and was well received by SEAMEO member states, SEAMEO associated member countries, donor countries and international organizations having similar purpose such as UNESCO, ICOM, ICCROM, and so on. Contributions of books for the library, and fellowships were received from France, the Netherlands and the Bangkok Bank, Thailand. The works of the Co-ordinating Unit and the Sub-Centres network were duly recognized.

SPAFA, having acquired working experience as SEAMEO's specialized agency in the area of culture, in 1984 began to work out its future plan which would enable it to play a bigger role along with other SEAMEO Centres/Projects for improvement of the quality of life of the peoples in Southeast Asia. The programme and activities were to be strengthened by reconstituting SPAFA into a Regional Centre. The idea was endorsed by the SEAMEO Council at its Twentieth Conference in Manila in 1985, and the Government of Thailand agreed to host the new Regional Centre, which would be called the SEAMEO Regional Centre for Archaeology and Fine Arts. The acronym SPAFA, however, was maintained because of its well established recognition.

In the year 1987, the new Regional Centre had the opportunity to welcome two new friends who were not able to join SPAFA before: Malaysia and Singapore. Later, Brunei Darussalam also became a SPAFA colleague. The first 5-year programmes of activities, formulated by the working team to reconstitute the project, was ready to be implemented. In the overview of the programmes and activities of the SPAFA First Five-year Development Plan 1987-1992 it is stated that "Fully aware of its responsibilities for SEAMEO in the area of culture, SPAFA seeks to understand itself and particularly its role in serving the Southeast Asian Region through its programmes and activities on culture. In so doing, SPAFA, first of all views culture as the totality of collective belief, value, technology and other means of adapting to the environments, as well as the complex of shared values that link people to their common past and give direction to their future: culture server as the integrating and motivating force which can sustain or hinder all development efforts. SPAFA contributes to this effort by focusing on those aspects of culture where it is most able to contribute and where it will not duplicate what other institutions, agencies and organizations are better equipped to undertaken."

The programmes of activities for Fys 1987/1988-1991/1992 consisted of 36 training courses (eight in general cultural fields, 22 in archaeology, six in fine arts), five seminars/workshops (four in archaeology, three in fine arts), and five research/development (three in archaeology and two in fine arts). The total amount of funds required for the implementation of the programmes is estimated at approximately US$2,700,000. The capital and operating funds for five years is approximately US$900,000, non-inclusive of the building budget.

It is stated in the Memorandum of Agreement concerning the operation and funding of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization Regional Centre for Archaeology and Fine Arts, from July 1, 1987 to June 30, 1992, that the Government of Thailand agrees to underwrite the capital and operating costs of the Centre; SEAMEO through SEAMES, undertakes to raise Special Funds for the Implementation of the approved programmes and activities of the Centre. It is also stated that the Centre may seek contributions from third parties to meet its obligations. SEAMES and SPAFA shall continue to co-operate in seeking assistance in the form of experts, equipment and any other forms of assistance from interested donors.

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