Angkor, Siem Reap See Fewer Visitors in 2008

Angkor Archaeological Park posted a $2.7 million loss in ticket revenues in 2008 as visitors to the tourist magnet fell by 50,000 and overall visitors to Siem Reap dropped by 5.4 percent when compared to 2007, officials said Thursday.

It was the first time since the SARS outbreak in 2003 that the tally of Angkor visitors did not see double-digit growth.

“The slump started in June last year, caused by the world financial crisis and chaos in Thailand,” said Bun Narith, director general of the Apsara Authority, the government agency that manages Angkor.

Angkor Archaeological Park earned about $30 million in revenues in 2008 when about 1.05 million foreigners visited the temples. This was down from the previous year’s $32.7 million in revenues when about 1.1 million foreigners visited, Bun Narith said by telephone Thursday.

Ticket collection for Angkor Archaeological Park is managed by Sokha Hotel Company, which is owned by Sok Kong, who is also the founder and CEO of petroleum giant Sokimex.

A profit-sharing agreement gives Apsara 15 percent of the total ticket revenue, while the rest of the total is split between the government, which receives 85 percent of the remainder, and Sokha Hotel Company, which receives 15 percent, according to Bun Narith.

Despite the recent drop, Bun Narith said there are no plans to change the current fees for foreigner visitors, which are $20 for a one-day ticket, $40 for a three-day ticket and $60 for a one-week ticket.

Apsara Authority Chairman and Cabinet Minister Sok An could not be reached for comment.

The decrease in visitors to Angkor Archaeological Park, however, echoed a drop in visitors to Siem Reap in general last year.

senior leaders.

Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kan­ha­rith on Friday warned against reading too much into the dismissal of Ke Kim Yan.

“It’s a reform of the army structure,” Khieu Kanharith said. “There is nothing beyond this.”

RCAF Deputy Commander in Chief General Kun Kim, who is to retain his position along with General Meas Sophea, also a deputy chief, said that while no future assignment for Ke Kim Yan had been announced, the former commander in chief would not end his public service career.

“He will not be idle. He will always receive another position, but I do not know what the government will offer him,” Kun Kim said by telephone.

Ke Kim Yan remained unreachable Friday.

Veteran political observer Chea Vannath said Friday that she was struck by the fact that Ke Kim Yan had been “terminated,” rather than simply sidelined with a promotion to a new position.

“I saw many letters of support on television to immediately support the new replacement [Pol Saroeun],” Chea Vannath said, noting that she had not seen anything like it before. “There is no tradition of removal of a senior official in government without giving another position.”

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