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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Expo fever prompts $20 million Siem Reap facelift

Expo fever prompts $20 million Siem Reap facelift

The government is spending $20 million to rehabilitate infrastructure in Siem Reap

for the Angkor-Gyeongju World Cultural Expo 2006, which opens in November and is

hoped to attract roughly 400,000 visitors, a government official told the Post.

As part of the infrastructure development, the expo is spurring Electricite du Cambodge

(EDC) to have a 50-megawatt electricity supply from Thailand up and running in Siem

Reap by the end of October.

Thong Khon, secretary of state at the Ministry of Tourism, said the expo will run

from November 21, 2006 to January 9, 2007 and will be open to the public from 3pm

to 11pm for 50 days.

"We want to show that Cambodia has the ability to host big events," said

Khon, who is also deputy chairman of the organizing committee. "We want to raise

awareness that we are in peace and development."

Khon said the expo is being organized jointly by Cambodia and South Korea and is

expected to cost $6 million, of which Korea will pay $4 million and Cambodia $2 million.

He said 4,000 tourists arrived every day in Siem Reap now, and this was expected

to double during the expo, providing extra income for local people.

Young Lee, vice chairman of the Angkor-Gyeongju World Cultural Expo 2006, said the

Cambodian and Korean governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding in October

2005 for Siem Reap to host the events.

"We want the world know that Cambodia and South Korea have a close relationship,"

Lee said. "Anyway, Buddhism is the top religion in Korea and we have similar


Lee said 20 countries from various continents had confirmed participation in the

exhibition and five other countries are expected to join in. Construction at the

site was under way, and rain was the only likely problem.

Lee said 12 teams of traditional dance, music and drama from Korea will perform with

Cambodian teams during the expo. The Korean teams will arrive in mid-October and

the teams will start rehearsal in early November. Korean traditional foods and other

products will also be shown.

"The culture reputation of the two countries will spread out all over the world

after the events," Lee said.

He said at least 150,000 Koreans will come, and he is concerned that there will not

be enough hotel rooms.

Khon said international kite flying, movies, fashion shows, cock fighting, horse

races and art performances will be shown.

A senior official at the Apsara Authority, who did not want to be named, said the

exhibition center is being built on a 15-hectare plot of land belonging to the authority

in the Cultural and Tourism zone 7km from Angkor Wat.

Thai electricity

He said the authority was cooperating with Electric du Cambodge to run electricity

from Thailand to Siem Reap in time for the exhibition, to build eight roads from

the town to the expo site and to light the roads surrounding the center.

"The President of [South] Korea will attend the opening ceremony on November

20," he said.

Siem Reap Governor Sou Phirin said the provincial authority is rehabilitating the

infrastructure in the town for the events, strengthening security, and instructing

vendors around the markets not to sell on paved roads to keep them attractive.

Phirin said a four-hectare plot at the exhibition center will be set aside for local

vendors and those from other provinces to sell their products.

According to a report from the Ministry of Tourism, in the first six months of 2006,

813,392 international visitors arrived in Cambodia - an increase of 19 percent over

last year. Khon estimated that the number of international visitors will reach two

million in 2006.

However Moeung Sonn, president of the National Association of Tourism Enterprises,

said he does not believe that the number of tourists will rise as much as Khon predicts.

He said the exhibition will not interest the international community. And he did

not think there would be much business in it for local tourist agencies.

"Just to see the exhibition show, visitors will need to stay one or two days,"

said Sonn, who is also deputy chairman of the Siem Reap Chamber of Commerce, "I

think local tour agencies will not get much benefit from tourists, as foreign tours

have already arranged by themselves."

EDC has contracted with a Thai company to connect electricity from Thailand through

Poipet to Sisophon, and from there to both Siem Reap and Battambang, Houng Chantha,

head of the technical office of EDC's corporate planning and projects department,

told the Post.

He said the priority was to be providing 50MW of Thai electricity to Siem Reap town

by the end of October in time for the expo. Like almost all Cambodian towns, Siem

Reap now relies on an expensive and inadequate supply of electricity from petrol-driven


To date, electricity poles have been installed over 110 km from Siem Reap to Sisophon.

Work is under way on the remaining 48 km to Poipet.

Chantha said the price of Siem Reap's electricity would probably go down once it

was coming from Thailand.

And he said if the installation of the power supply from Thailand went smoothly the

lines would soon be extended to Kampong Thom and Kampong Cham.



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