By Pang Sokheoun
These few days I feel deeply hurt to read the news publishing about the annual income from ticket sales of the most wonder temple on earth of our priceless Angkor Wat reported by Apsara Authority. Below is the excerpt from the Cambodia Daily which posted on KI-Media.
ANGKOR Wat ticket sales dropped almost 10 percent in 2008, said Bun Narith, deputy director of Apsara Authority, the government institute that handles revenue from the attraction, blaming a tourism downturn despite criticism that figures have been manipulated due to corruption.
Revenue from ticket sales dropped to about US$30 million last year from roughly $32 million in 2007, he added. However, uncertainty surrounds the data given that Apsara and tycoon Sok Kong’s Sokimex, which owns Sokha Hotels – the organisations that receive revenue from Angkor Wat – have refused to release detailed, concrete figures, critics say.
Explaining the situation, Bun Narith told the Post: “I have not received the exact figures from the Ministry of Economy and Finance and Sokimex,” he said, refusing to provide details on their revenue-sharing agreement. Sok Kong was unavailable Tuesday, his assistant Seng Chanthy said, adding that the person responsible for Angkor Wat ticketing was “on holiday”.
To my question, how can the revenue be dropped when the tourist number in the country has been increasing? It is absolutely illogical. It is absolutely corruption and the crime which are unforgivable. And those who are responsible for this must be punished accordingly.
Who should be punished for this crime? Well, it is he who is the head of the Cambodian government who solely authorizes the Sokimex to run this management for a 10-year concession on revenue collection since 1999 without transparent, free and fair bid and the approval of the National Assembly.
Why Cambodian government is not capable to manage such a project? What is the use of creating Ministry of Tourism and Apsara Authority if they can’t even administrate the ticket sale management to Angkor Wat? How can we trust the Cambodian leader to rule the country competently and responsibly for the sake of the nation as reflected by the Angkor Wat management? Shall we allow such a leader to represent or lead us in the future?
But the problem is beyond the above mention because our precious Angkor Wat should deserve better responsibility, care, and respect as her value is above all other heritages in our nation or even possibly in the world.
My beloved countrymen, you all know that our precious Angkor Wat was built by our Khmer ancestors under the leadership of one of our greatest Kings ever born Preah Bat Suryavarman II in the 12th century which even the world can’t help admiring this wonderful and heavenly master-architecture. This work becomes the pride of all humankind in the world and especially this heritage of our beloved Angkor Wat has become the pride, the soul, the spirit, and the life of our people and the nation from generation to generation. We live for her -Angkor Wat.
In this sense, Angkor Wat is our life. She is our identity. She stands for our solidarity, unity, value, dignity, pride, struggle, civilization, and ideology as a nation –the Khmer, and we must protect her from any harm or any improper act. And therefore, she must be managed with the highest respect and care. Furthermore, any interest comes from her priceless status must be managed by our beloved people and for the sake of our beloved people and the nation. This means that whoever who consciously has the Khmer blood in his or her own body should deserve the equal rights to bid for Angkor Wat management or other business around her. Or the best, she must monopolistically be under the management of the Cambodian government. But not those who are pure foreigners like Sok Kong. He doesn’t deserve the rights to monopolize our national identity’s heritage. Please ask yourself as a Khmer that why Sok Kong has the privilege to benefit from our most symbolic heritage while we are the real owner don’t? Constitutionally, he, Sok Kong, can only benefit from the pleasantness of the untouchable beauty and the pride of our precious Angkor Wat like other people from other nations around the world.
Sok Kong the President of Sokimex
Please my beloved countrymen read the below excerpt again.
Khmer-language daily Koh Santepheap reported on January 13 that the first $3 million in Angkor Wat revenue is split 50-50 between Sokimex and Apsara. Of additional revenue, 15 percent goes to restoration and development at Angkor, 68 percent to Apsara’s operating costs and 17 percent to Sokimex.
And this is the reaction from MP Son Chhay who reasonably questions the management of the ticket sale.
SRP MP Son Chhay reacted to Bun Narith’s claims: “Each year, the ticket sale revenue brings in at least $60 million. I am asking the government to investigate this problem. The daily reports (of revenue income) are not published; I wish to be able to look at them.” Son Chhay indicated also that he went to the spot on several occasions. “Since 2005, the year when the private Sokha Hotel company [owned by Sok Kong, a crony of Hun Sen] was involved in the management of ticket sales, no visible improvement of the site, both in terms of equipments and service, can be seen. The government must manage this source of revenue on its own,” Son Chhay said on the National Assembly floor.
It clearly shows that, “He makes a cake without any flour.” He personally earns millions of US dollar annually from our national symbolic heritage without doing anything but just install a post and sells the tickets. Do you all agree with this my beloved people as a Khmer? Please tell me!
To my national consciousness, the concession rights given to Sokimex of Sok Kong are the act of disrespect and ungratefulness towards our ancestor and Greatest Kings, and undermine our national pride and identity. And therefore justice must be brought against this act of crime.