PHNOM PENH —
Senior opposition lawmaker Son Chhay has called for a review of government spending on the Apsara Authority, the body that overseas the Angkor Archaeological Park.
In a letter to Culture Minister Phoeung Sakona, dated April 21, Chhay calls for a review of tens of millions of dollars, which he said was not spent on maintenance of temples and bridges in need of repair.
The letter also accused the Apsara Authority of leasing land to tycoon Sok Kong, whose company previously held the lease to collect ticket revenues at the world-famous park.
“In reality, some Apsara Authority officials abused their power to extort money from citizens illegally by removing some infrastructure, such as toilets, chicken coops, or fences, even though [people living in the area] had already asked for permission,” the letter reads.
He alleged that the authority had spent money that should have gone towards renovations on illegal construction in the park’s grounds.
Chau Sun Kerya, Apsara Authority spokeswoman, denied the claims, saying that the painstaking restorations needed at the site took time and research.
“We love heritage, that’s why we work here. Who doesn’t hate to see the temples broken? It’s easy for him [Chhay] to say this,” she said.
“If he wants to make accusations, he should visit the site because Apsara Authority has not issued any permit for any construction in the protected area at all.”
Chhay claimed that the authority had leased 23 hectares of land seized from citizens to Sok Kong for $9.66 million, but had only reported $2 million in income from the sale.
Sun Kerya denied the claim.
“We have asked the minister to first look into these negative activities and solve the problem, and protect the people from being affected by the bad habits of the Apsara Authority officials,” Chhay said.
The authority has one week to respond to the request under parliamentary rules.
Sakona, who assumed the presidency of the Apsara Authority after the death of ruling Cambodian People’s Party figure Sok An in March, said she would respond to the request shortly.
“He was right to raise questions, and we will respond as soon as we can,” she said.