Senior ruling Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Cheam Yeap has dismissed allegations of massive corruption by the government body that oversees the Angkor Archaeological Park made by opposition lawmaker Son Chhay last week.
Chhay called for a full investigation into the reporting and use of funds from ticket sales at the Angkor temple complex during a fact-finding mission to Siem Reap province as deputy chairman of the National Assembly’s banking and finance commission, which Yeap leads.
He alleged that the Apsara Authority, which contracts the ticket sales at the temple complex to Sok Kong’s Sokimex conglomerate, had underreported ticket sales amounting to tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue and had sold prime real estate to Sokimex at a fraction of its market value.
But Yeap yesterday defended the Apsara Authority, which is headed by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, calling Chhay a lifelong “oppositionist”.
“I cannot accept [Chhay’s findings] because of the three pieces of evidence: the report of the president of Apsara to the delegation, the slideshow, and the report given to us [by the Apsara Authority],” he said.
“Chhay considers himself as an oppositionist. So even though [the Apsara Authority] has done the right thing, he still opposes it; this is his behaviour,” he added.
Chhay could not be reached yesterday to respond to Yeap’s comments.
“He cannot say that the ruling party has done the right thing ever. He was always raised as an oppositionist. He accuses us of everything.… I cannot accept it,” Yeap said.
Yeap went on to claim that Chhay had a grievance against the Apsara Authority after he lost a lawsuit against it over a land dispute.
In 2008, Chhay alleged that he was forced to sell his 3-hectare plot of land in the province for 50 cents per square metre.
Apsara has leased 23 hectares of land to Sokimex for 70 years to build hotels and other attractions for $9.6 million, Chhay said last week, adding that the figure was far below the market value of the lease.
San Chey, a fellow at the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific (ANSA-EAP), urged the government to hold a public hearing into the allegations.
“I think that both the ruling party and opposition seem to have a different point of view or have different findings over the revenue from Angkor Wat, which is a sensitive issue often used for political propaganda,” he said.
“It would be better if we end with a strategy: the issue of the revenue of Angkor Wat should be discussed openly and clearly with the participation of civil society, the opposition party, and those responsible for collecting the revenue. Then we will know the truth,” he added.