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Angkor revenue short: Chhay

Tourists organise passes to the temples of the Angkor Archaeological Park
Tourists organise passes to the temples of the Angkor Archaeological Park at the ticket office in Siem Reap province yesterday afternoon. Thik Kaliyann

Angkor revenue short: Chhay

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay has called for a full investigation into the reporting and use of funds from ticket sales at the Angkor Wat temple complex.

Chhay yesterday claimed the revenue earned from ticket sales to foreign tourists was under-reported, following the second day of a fact-finding mission to the province.

In the first 10 months of the year, he said, Angkor Wat – which is under the purview of the Apsara Authority, with tycoon Sok Kong holding the rights to sell tickets at the site – brought in 1.8 million tourists, earning Kong’s Sokimex firm $52 million.

This figure does not add up, he added, as research has shown that about 80 per cent of the millions of tourists visiting Cambodia each year head to the country’s most famous landmark, compared with the 35 per cent evident in Apsara’s figures.

“It is a surprise that the figure from Apsara suggests that only about 35 per cent of all tourists [visited the temples],” he said. “It’s also a surprise that Sok Kong is contracted to sell tickets without a bidding process.”

Apsara has also leased 23 hectares of land to Sokimex for 70 years to build hotels and other attractions for $9.6 million, Chhay said, adding the figure was far below the market value of the lease.

Chhay said that he had informed the Apsara Authority’s director general, Bun Narith, of the alleged irregularities and was now calling for a full investigation.

Some evidence requested by the commission was also not provided, he said, including lists of visitors, which Apsara said had been deleted from their system.

Apsara’s Narith could not be reached for comment yesterday, but a statement from the agency claimed it had handed over all available documentation covering the past five years to the commission.

Preap Kol, executive director at Transparency International Cambodia, said the lack of “proper and verifiable accounting systems together with the lack of transparency in the management of revenues coming from Angkor Wat’s entrance fees create suspicion of irregularity”.

“To resolve this problem, there needs to be verifiable and accountable bookkeeping systems, preferably automated ones, plus a mandatory and regular disclosure of information on revenues and number of tourists entering [the] Angkor Area.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY DANIEL PYE

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