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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cultural village near Angkor Wat proves popular

Cultural village near Angkor Wat proves popular

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UNTAC, the United Nations' unprecedented $2.3 billion peacekeeping mission, brought 26,000 soldiers, police and civilians to Cambodia. Over 100 UN employees died from conflct, accidents, or disease. Above, the Cambodian Cultural Village's Wax Museum depicts the 1992-1993 UNTAC experience with a Blue Beret holding a taxi girl.

Angkor Wat temple is the icon of Cambodian tourism, but there is another, increasingly

popular, attraction on the way to Siem Reap Airport: the Cambodian Cultural Village,

where Cambodian and foreign visitors go every day.

Built in the tourism zone about 14 km from Angkor, this is a complex of miniature

Khmer villages covering 210,000 square meters, and comprises a great mixture of representative

and historical buildings and structures, local customs and practices of all major

ethnic Khmer groups.

It was opened in September 2003 to promote Cambodian culture to visitors and locals

alike.

Ung Vorin, an officer at the village, said that on "normal" days 1000 to

2000 people visit and on "festival" days (Khmer New Year, school holidays,

etc) the numbers can go up to 10,000.

Vorin said the layout comprises 11 unique villages, which represent the different

heritage and characteristics of nine Khmer races. There is the traditional Apsara

dance and also dance performances by the ethnic minorities from the northeast of

Cambodia.

At each village visitors can see craftsmen and women working at stone and wood carving,

silverware engraving and precious-stone cutting.

Museum displays show how Angkor Wat was built by the ancient Khmers, lifestyles during

the Chenla period and replicas of important people in Cambodian history.

Keo Many, 22, said his own country of Laos had nothing like this village. He found

it just as rewarding as the temples.

Chheang Vanna, 23, from Battambang, came with her family. She said that even though

the displayed objects were badly manufactured it was nevertheless a valuable experience

for young people. She suggested that each display of a person should have a small

biographical and historical description.

Koy Song, chief of the tourism office in Siem Reap, said in the first five months

of 2004, foreign visitor arrivals were more than 200,000 - an increase of 10.51 percent.

Chap Nhalyvoud, Governor of Siem Reap province, said Siem Reap's rapid growth was

putting pressure on security, electricity, water, roads and wastewater treatment.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is providing low-interest loan assistance of $25

million for water and wastewater investigation and development in Siem Reap.

According to the annual report of the Ministry of Tourism, about 57 percent of all

international visitor arrivals came to Siem Reap in 2003; the actual number for 2004

is expected to be 570,000. By 2008 it may reach 1.3 million and by 2010, 1.9 million.

Revenue collected from tourism in Siem Reap was about $100 million in 2003 and is

forecast at $240 million in 2006 and $600 million in 2010.

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