The Apsara Authority has demanded an end to a construction project in Angkor Thom, officials said Monday, fueling what has become a long-running feud between Apsara and the project’s benefactor, Phnom Penh Deputy Municipal Police Chief Heng Pov.
Heng Pov received authorization earlier this year to renovate a 1950s-era building located inside the gates of Angkor Thom, but Apsara officials said he went beyond his authority when he tore the structure down in order to re-build it from scratch.
Heng Pov agreed that, at first, he was only authorized to repair a portion of the building’s leaking wooden roof, but said the building’s residents urged him to conduct wider-scale renovations, saying the entire roof was faulty.
“I have no idea how everything went wrong,” Apsara Deputy Director General Soeung Kong said.
King Norodom Sihanouk built the structure, located just west of the Bayon, in 1949 to house a statue of the mythical God-King, Kaundinya or Kok Thlok. The statue was moved to a provincial museum for safekeeping after the Khmer Rouge regime and replaced with a replica, which many people still believe has mystical powers, Soeung Kong said.
Heng Pov was authorized to make repairs by the Siem Reap governor and by Apsara and Angkor Conservation officials, Soeung Kong said.
But Angkor Conservation Bureau Chief Keo Saravuth, said he asked that King Sihanouk be consulted before changes were made to the structure.
“This is the King’s building, we have to ask the King first,” Keo Saravuth said.
“When they renovate the building they will use their name, instead of the King’s,” he said.
Heng Pov said he wanted to do the renovations because he believes it is a good deed that will bring him blessings from Buddha. Originally, repairs were expected to cost $4,000, but Heng Pov said the project cost has risen to $20,000, half of which he has spent already.
“I will stop the construction if the Apsara Authority causes me trouble and let them finish my work,” he added.
The King last week lamented the “senseless and destructive exploitation of Angkor” by top officials who make themselves rich by attracting hordes of tourists without regard for the environment around the temples.