Ecotourism technical college planned for Siem Reap outskirts

Ecotourism technical college planned for Siem Reap outskirts

A US-based Khmer architect is pushing ahead  with the construction of a college that marries conservation with tourism services.

SITE work is set to begin on the construction of a technical college on a 10-hectare site on the outskirts of Siem Reap, but funding is falling behind schedule, according to Ronnie Yimsut, a US-resident Cambodian who is the driving force behind the ambitious project.

Yimsut hopes to construct the Bakong Ecotourism Technical College to provide skills to residents in Siem Reap villages.

The college will offer training in various skills needed in cultural and environmental conservation, focusing on tourism services.

But following a visit to Siem Reap in April, Yimsut said funding was falling short.

"I have invested over US$150,000 thus far, and will need an additional $100,000 to start phase one of a four-phase process. But we are a long way from getting our funding needs in this terrible global economic crisis, and so far we have raised pocket change.

"We have a five-year action plan, and Plan A is to raise enough funds through various means, any and all necessary - legally, of course.

"Plan B is to sell my own farm in Siem Reap, just behind former Siem Reap governor Chap Nalyvuth's mansion and Norodom Ranariddh's compound due west of Siem Reap."

Ground was broken on the paid-for site last year, and fence and gate construction is nearly completed. Site work is set to commence in June.

Yimsut said, "Additionally, we are working with a group of Toronto Rotarians, and we look to build one of our first buildings, a mess hall and community centre, in November."

Three-dimensional drawings of the building have been drawn up by Texas A&M's  Department of Architecture and Allied Arts, who also designed the Akira Landmine Museum near Banteay Srei temple.  

Yimsut is a landscape architect for the US Forest Service in Milwaukee, where he designs and plans National Forest recreation and tourist sites, and conducts environmental impact studies on landscape ecologies and ecosystems. 

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