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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Angkor lights stir controversy

Angkor lights stir controversy

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090528_05.jpg

A heritage specialist has requested intervention from the prime minister in a disagreement over light fixtures on temples at the Angkor Wat complex.

Photo by: Photo Supplied

Lights are recessed into holes that tourism officials maintain were not drilled into the temple structure. 

AHERITAGE advocate  has sent a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen urging him to stop an ongoing light installation project at the Angkor Wat temple, saying equipping the 11-century World Heritage site with lights will have a negative effect on its ambiance.

"The illumination will disturb tourists and badly affect the beauty of the temples. By the law of the Apsara Authority, even villagers are not allowed to build new houses in the Angkor area, but it is regrettable that the area is now equipped with lights," Moeung Son, president of the Khmer Civilisation Foundation Organisation (KCF), said at a press conference Tuesday.

The project, which began late last year, was designed to encourage "night lighting" tours and prolong the stay of tourists in the area.

However, Moeung Son said it would also fail to do that.

"According my experience in the tourism sector, cultural tourists never watch temples at night. They are particularly interested in Khmer ancient building styles."

Ho Vandy, head of the permanent committee of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, also said that the lights would not increase tourist traffic to the site.

"Only about 20 or 30 tourists come to visit the temple or performances at night," Ho Vandy said.

Details of fixtures vague

Tourism officials have been vague about how the lights have been fixed to structures, saying they were put into "existing" holes in the temples.

The Ministry of Tourism and the Apsara Authority have maintained that the arrangement would help attract more visitors and consequently raise income in the tourism sector.

"I hope that the illumination will increase the number of tourists, and the Angkor Wat temple will become productive, bringing more income for Cambodia's economy. Moreover, the Angkor Wat area will look more active and lively," So Mara, a secretary of state at the Tourism Ministry, said Tuesday.  

 "Now we always tell visitors to get out when it's dark because we are afraid that they may fall down while walking in the dark. But when there are lights, visitors will have more time to walk around," he added. 

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