Man about town: 04 April 2014

Man about town: 04 April 2014

Grand plans by US-based Khmer architect Ronnie Yimsut and sometime Siem Reap resident to build the massive Bakong EcoTourism Technical College on the outskirts of town have fallen into a heap, with Yimsut facing court charges and the project shut down.

On May 21 2009 the Phnom Penh Post reported that. “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.

“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.”

But late last year, Yimsut was ousted from the project and on March 25 he and his fiancée, Sokhym, appeared in Siem Reap Municipal court after an arrest warrant had earlier been issued.

The project was shut down last year just before a scheduled opening day due to internal matters between the funder and an ex-director.

Yimsut told Man About that the college was the subject of a “hostile takeover” on October 13, 2013 and now remains closed by an order from the Minister of the Interior HE Leng Vy.

Yimsut discovered the dire situation when police denied him access to the campus to do some work.

He said the charges he is now facing include falsifying public documents, which carries a five to ten year jail term, cursing at an ex-director and defamation.

During his court appearance, respective statements were taken and he said the Minister of Justice in Phnom Penh has asked for all files related to the case for investigation.

He added that three counter-suits “are in the works.”

It’s a pity that Yimsut’s grandiose but beneficial scheme has come to this, mainly over money matters, when it was so close to becoming a reality.

But being such a large scale project with a complex funding and management structure it always looked a tad shaky.

Even back in 2009, in the Phnom Penh Post article, Yimsut admitted to funding problems.

He said back then that funding was falling short and told the Post, "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."

But knowing Yimsut, the dude ain’t finished yet.

Google held what it called an “immersive event” at the Park Hyatt yesterday, following a dinner on Wednesday night. The occasion featured the debut of the first-ever Street View imagery of Angkor Wat and adding over 90,000 new temple images, including a “walk through an online gallery dedicated to Khmer heritage and cultural treasures.”

During an “a-la cartology breakfast” yesterday, participants heard from Google Maps product experts and became “hands-on with the technology used to make Google Maps in a digitally enriched tour of Angkor Wat.” The breakfast also featured “a virtual museum deep dive” allowing people to “discover more of Cambodian cultural heritage with the unveiling of the new Google Cultural Institute collection.”

Meanwhile Park Hyatt Siem Reap has been awarded the 2013 Luxury Travel Advisor Award of Excellence for Top Asia Hotel Opening in 2013.


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