The New7Wonders Foundation began a global tour this week to promote its worldwide campaign to decide the new Seven Wonders of the World, with Angkor Wat as one of its 21 candidates.
The Swiss-based foundation, headed by former UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization director-general Federico Mayor, is inviting people to vote on its Web site, new7wonders.com, or by telephone, to decide what sites will make the top seven.
Angkor Wat is pitted against sites including the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, the Roman Colosseum in Italy, the Great Wall of China, Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto, Japan, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and the Statue of Liberty in New York.
Foundation officials will arrive in Cambodia on Nov 28 to rally enthusiasm for the project, according to the Web site. The winners will be announced in Portugal in July 2007.
Cambodian officials responded frostily to the project on Thursday, saying the country’s chances would be limited when pitted against nations like China and the US.
Minister of Tourism Lay Prohas said Cambodia’s odds would be undermined by the country’s limited Internet resources.
“How many Cambodians have access to Internet?” he asked.
He added that Angkor Wat is already viewed by many as one of the Seven Wonders, which include the Pyramids in Egypt, although it is not officially on the list.
“Angkor Wat has already been regarded as one of the Seven Wonders,” he said. “I don’t know if it is appropriate or not to be voted for.”
Siem Reap Provincial Governor Sou Phirin said he didn’t support the project.
“It’s a bad idea, people cannot use Angkor Wat to play around,” he said. “We don’t need the program.”
Ho Vandy, secretary-general of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, agreed that Cambodia would perform poorly through an Internet voting system.
It would be fairer to hold the votes at the historical sites themselves, he said.
But he also said that if Angkor Wat does make the top seven, it would benefit tourism, and expressed confidence that the national treasure could still win.
“You can see the different temples around the world. No one can compare with Angkor Wat,” he said.
New7Wonders Foundation officials did not respond to questions by e-mail on Thursday. A Unesco official in Phnom Penh said he was not previously aware of the project.
(Additional reporting by Yun Sumean)