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Cable cars, airport to open up Preah Vihear

Cable cars, airport to open up Preah Vihear

An Indian company has unveiled a multimillion-dollar proposal to build an airport serving Preah Vihear temple, a senior government official said on May 14.

Hang Soth, the director of the Preah Vihear National Authority, said the proposal by Mumbai-based Skil Infrastructure Ltd included building a cable car to the top of the escarpment graced by the ancient 11th century Hindu monument.

Soth said a five-member company team had arranged further talks with the government after visiting the temple, and the proposed airport site 32 kilometers away, on April 30. The airport needs to be some distance from the temple to minimize the risk of damage caused by vibration.

Soth said the company planned to hold detailed talks on its proposal with Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and the Council for the Development of Cambodia.

The government was yet to make a decision, said Soth, who added: "I really hope they can do it."

Soth said the proposal had the potential to make Preah Vihear as popular a tourist attraction as Siem Reap, the gateway to Angkor Wat.

Cambodian officials hope the temple will be listed this year as a World Heritage Site, further raising its profile.

But efforts to secure this designation have been bogged down in a dispute with Thailand over ownership of the surrounding land.

Soth said the company had considerable experience in cable car projects, having built six in Vietnam. "So they could do it here," he said.

Preah Vihear province deputy governor Long Sovann said he welcomed any project that would help to increase the number of tourists visiting the temple.

He said challenging road conditions limited the number of tourists visiting the temple to between 60 and 100 a day during the rainy season and up to 200 a day during the high season.

Minister of Tourism Thong Khon said a study would have to be undertaken to assess the suitability of the proposal by Skil Infrastructure, which also wanted to invest in Kampong Chhnang Airport.

Khon said 110,000 tourists visited the heritage site last year, and the figure was expected to rise once road access to the area was improved.

Prime Minister Hun Sen last month inaugurated a project to build a 118-kilometer road linking Preah Vihear's provincial capital T'beng Meanchey with the temple.

Work on the road project is due to start late this year and be completed within 45 months.

It will bring to three the number of roads providing access to the temple, with two in Cambodia, from Siem Reap and Kampong Thom, and the other in Thailand.

Skil Infrastructure's website says it specializes in building transport infrastructure and special economic zones.

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