Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Privatisation of Angkor Wat and the Killing Fields

[Update: The Tonle Sap boat tours in Siem Reap are now operated by a Korean company...is there nothing the Cambodian government will not sell?]

Many people know that the entry fee (USD20 per person per day) to the temples at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap goes not to the national treasury, but to the private company called Sokimex, also the country's largest petroleum company. It is a Cambodian company, NOT a Vietnamese company, despite what the tuktuk drivers and tour guides will have you believe. The allegations are made by Cambodians because the owner Sok Kong is Cambodian, born to ethnic Vietnamese parents. And if you think that makes him Vietnamese, then you must consider me a mainland Chinese instead of a Singaporean, and Malays born in Singapore to be Malaysian instead of Singaporean. Which is patently stupid.

Anyway, early this year, parliamentarian Son Chhay wrote a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen, asking him to reconsider the rights granted the Sokimex company to administer Angkor Wat.

Sokimex has held exclusive ticketing rights to the temples since 1999, and its contract was renewed in August 2005, despite a competing bid by a travel company, Eurasie Travel.

"In a May 10 letter written to Bun Narith, director general of the Apsara Authority, Eurasie Travel requested the right to put in a bid when Sokimex's contract expires. Moeung Sonn, managing director of Eurasie Travel, proposed that the company receive a maximum of 10 percent of total revenues for ticket sales. ("Eurasie Travel to challenge Angkor Wat ticket deal", Phnom Penh Post, 20.5.2005)

The management of the killing fields at Cheong Ek is leased to a Japanese company. The company is JC Royal Company, which has a 30-year contract to manage and operate the site thousands of Cambodian deaths which took place during the Khmer Rouge rule. JC Royal Company's licence costs $15,000 a year, with graduated increases. However, according to this New York Times article JC Royal Company will earn an estimated $18,000 a month in entrance fees and the profits will go to a fund that is half-owned by Cambodian government officials.

Tuol Sleng genocide museum, however, is not privatised. (See http://www.genocidewatch.org/images/Cambodia_28_Dec_05_Tuol_Sleng_ Director_Museum_Wont_Be_Privatized.pdf--sorry for some reason I am unable to have an active link to this PDF file.)

Although the director of the museum claims there is no entrance fee, visitors are charged USD2. Ho Vandy, president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, said that although the entrance fee is technically a donation, it is a "requirement set up by the local authorities, controlled by the Ministry of Cultureand Fine Arts" (!)

1 comment:

Bob Dylan said...

Dear blog writer,
I am Khmerish, i am very impressed by what you have written. Your blog should reach a wider audience. Do you have any idea how much the company in charge Angkor Wat entrance fee pays to the government?

i cannot wait to read your blog.


You can contact me by dl.khmerish@gmail.com


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