‘Angkor Lake of Wonder’ Not Suitable Next to Temples, Ministry Says

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Angkor Wat complex in Siem Reap on June 6, 2020 (Matt Surrusco/VOD)

The Culture Ministry has announced that NagaCorp’s proposed $350-million theme park and resort near Siem Reap’s Angkor temples cannot be built as proposed, with an official adding that the “huge scale” development would disturb religious activity. 

The ministry posted an announcement Tuesday saying NagaCorp’s proposed Angkor Lake of Wonder project “cannot be implemented in this context,” agreeing with conclusions drawn by the International Coordinating Committee of Angkor, which oversees the funding, restoration and development of Angkor Archaeological Park.

Sum Map, secretary of state for the Culture Ministry, told VOD that there was nothing wrong with NagaCorp’s plan, but the theme park aspects of the project could have a “negative impact” on the religious meaning of the temple area.

“The only one reason [for the ministry’s decision] is the huge scale of the investment,” he said. “Angkor park is the place for religious [activities]. When we bring the activities that contrast with the originality of Angkor, those activities can affect its value.”

“It seems like Disneyland,” he said. “It cannot be near the Angkor site.” 

When asked whether the earthworks for the park could disturb the Unesco World Heritage site, Map said that was not the problem, adding that the company could propose a hotel at that location, so long as it would not disturb the religious aspects of the park.

Map said he believed the Culture Ministry’s decision to be the final word on the proposed park, as the government had to approve its press release before the ministry could post it on Facebook.

NagaCorp told its shareholders in November that the company received a 50-year lease on 75 hectares of land about 500 meters from Angkor’s restricted zone, and hired two U.S. architecture firms to develop “hotels, water theme park, indoor hi-tech theme parks, canal, water cruise attractions, meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (‘MICE’) facilities, cultural attractions, food streets and pubs etc” within the area.

The company has not responded to emailed questions. 

Last month, Unesco publicly raised concerns that the projects scale and concept would have a negative impact on the world heritage site’s overall value, noting that technical experts were “clearly unfavorable to it.” The organization expressed similar concerns during the ICC-Angkor meeting in January, it said.

Several years before the project was announced, Prime Minister Hun Sen personally intervened in a 20-year land dispute involving around 1,000 families at the site in Siem Reap city’s Slakram commune.

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