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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - As temples flourish, roads and bridges are in need of repair

Infrastructure like bridges and roads, despite undergoing maintenance, take a long time to complete.
Infrastructure like bridges and roads, despite undergoing maintenance, take a long time to complete. Vandy Muong

As temples flourish, roads and bridges are in need of repair

The wondrous city of Siem Reap that attracts millions of visitors to its sprawling megalithic grounds full of temples and of the world-famous Angkor Wat has no problem attracting tourists. This, however, does not necessarily translate to the maintenance practiced in the city.

According to Siem Reap deputy provincial governor Ly Samreth, there are 500 main roads in the city – excluding the thousands of smaller roads outside the city – but around three hundred of these roads are in desperate need of repair.

“Our provincial administration has a master plan to develop and maintain key areas such as social, cultural, security, and so on every five years, and we always plan to invest in the national budget on infrastructure each year,” Samreth said.

“Every year, we have a lot of development work that can respond to people’s requests, and we have a budget of around $10 million annually in the development of the entire provincial administration, but we all plan to contribute to different sectors due to our limited budget,” Samreth told Post Property.

While Angkor Wat and its other, smaller, temples continue raking in the money from nonstop tourism, with the Angkor Enterprise recently revealing that ticket sales for the Angkor Wat Archaeological Park generated $52.2 million during the first six months of the year, the revenue is seemingly not spilling over to the essential aspects of improving the city, with Samreth admitting that many roads in Siem Reap are in need of upgrading.

“Some people won’t see the wider development because they notice only that roads and infrastructure within the [Siem Reap] city are unrepaired and in dire state,” he said.

Potholes are a common sight on the roads in and around Siem Reap city.
Potholes are a common sight on the roads in and around Siem Reap city. Vandy Muong

According to Samreth, not all funds received from the Angkor Wat Archaeological Park get re-invested back into Siem Reap province, with a lot of the funds being directed into government coffers and, from there, distributed around Cambodia to meet broader infrastructure, education and health needs.

“If Siem Reap province took all the money, how would the provinces without tourist sites survive?” he said, jokingly adding that “if Siem Reap got all the money, Siem Reap will become a city like New York in the next five years.”

Sorn Seap, CEO and founder of Key Real Estate, told Post Property that while Siem Reap’s real estate situation is healthy in the city, the case isn’t so across the province. Only Siem Reap city is able to foster successful businesses, and the livelihoods of the province’s people in other communes in Siem Reap are incomparable to those living in Battambang or Kampong Cham.

Because the Apsara Authority in Siem Reap has cut off new infrastructure projects from being built on existing state land, these potential developments will instead shift focus to Angkor Kyung Yu – where the province’s new airport is set to be built.

Seap admitted that there were some shortcomings in Siem Reap’s outskirts, where visitors are afraid to travel due to inadequate roads, and problematic sewage and water systems. “Today, people who come to visit Siem Reap are largely tourists, so the provincial management must have good accommodation, good food, good public service and good infrastructure across the whole province to serve the tourists,” he added.

A Siem Reap resident, Sok San, told Post Property: “The development of the infrastructure is not so different since I came here in 1995; not updated. From then to now, in some areas the roads are still the same.”

Despite some construction and project maintenance of a few old roads and bridges, San added that the maintaining of public infrastructure always takes a long time to complete, especially in the city.

While walking towards Angkor Wat, a French tourist told Post Property that this was his second visit after his first visit in 2013. The unsurpassable majestic ambience of the temple had been what drew him back a second time, but even he expressed surprise at the $37 charge on the entrance fee. Before its last price hike, tickets to enter the renowned temple were already priced quite heftily at $20.

However, he said he was more than ready to pay up if it was proven that the money was flowing back into public maintenance and development.

“I like Siem Reap because it is full of wonderful things, but I have noticed that there is less maintenance of things, and public services, such as some of the roads which are in dire straits,” he said.

“I hope the city will be better when I come back again in the future,” said the Frenchman.

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