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$35m park project for Siem Riep

Construction is slated to begin within a year on the Living Angkor Project, a $35

million visitors center in Siem Reap, home to the world renowned Angkor Wat temples.

The 'eco-cultural park' will focus on Cambodian nature and history, as well as the

country's regeneration.

The developers said they were considering three large sites in Siem Reap including

one in 'Port d'Angkor', the town's new hotel zone. The project is at an advanced

state of development, said project CEO Martin French, although they were still waiting

for regulatory approval.

The first stage of the project will cost $10 million and involve architects, designers

and landscapers. It should be completed within three years. Further expansion would

depend on tourist demand, he said, and a museum might be added to the original phase.

"The project has the enthusiastic support of Prime Minister Hun Sen," said

French. "We originally looked at a hotel project, but realized that a visitor

center was lacking."

The World Bank's foreign investment arm, the International Finance Corporation, will

provide $4 million. The OPEC Development Fund will contribute $3 million, with the

balance of the initial phase financed by foreign corporate groups.

French stressed the concept was to "try to do something very much in keeping

with Angkor" and said he intended the center to look "extremely natural"

with exhibits to raise tourists' awareness of the temple sites and help them interpret

them correctly. An endangered species exhibit was also planned.

"It's got to strike the right tone - not kitsch or containing modern interactive

technology either," he said. French added that the developers also wanted to

establish a foundation alongside the center that would "give something back

through visitor awareness and outreach programs".

The government's body to promote foreign investment, the Council for the Development

of Cambodia, is also involved.

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