The Apsara Authority in Siem Reap province has ordered a South Korean company to stop constructing a golf course, alleging that it was being built illegally inside the Angkor Archaeological Park, a senior Apsara official said Wednesday.
However, several other officials familiar with the Angkor area said they had no knowledge of any such golf course being built inside the park’s protected area.
Apsara Deputy Director Dom Hak said an unidentified South Korean company recently began building a golf course on land near the Western Baray—a large reservoir located west of the Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom temples that is considered an integral part of the temple complex.
“I found there are some buildings and a site for a golf course being built inside the land of the Apsara Authority near the Baray region. They built with no permission from Apsara at all,” Dom Hak said by telephone. Apsara is the government agency tasked with managing the Angkor park.
Dom Hak, who is also a three-star RCAF major general, said company officials ignored his request for documentation proving they were authorized to build on the land.
“It is illegal to build such a site in this area,” Dom Hak said, adding that he ordered the project to be scrapped earlier this month. Dom Hok, however, was unable to say how close the course was to the Western Baray.
Philippe Delanghe, culture program specialist at the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, said that approximately six weeks ago, the Apsara Authority put a stop to a golf driving range located south of Siem Reap International Airport.
Delanghe added that the South Korean-owned range was not a full-scale golf course and emphasized that it was not inside the Angkor protected area.
“It was a practise driving range,” he said.
Delanghe also said he has visited the Western Baray area several times in recent months and hasn’t seen the beginnings of any golf courses being built there.
“To my knowledge nothing like that is happening near the Western Baray,” he said.
There have been some instances of unauthorized building in the protected area over the years, but the authorities have always put a stop to these, Delanghe added.
Siem Reap’s Deputy Provincial Governor Ung Oeun said that he had no information about a South Korean company building a golf course inside Angkor’s protected area.
Kim In-kook, second secretary at the South Korean Embassy, said he, too, had no information about the case and declined further comment.
The shutting of the course comes amid a growing golf frenzy in Siem Reap.
In April, the 155-hectare Phokeethra Country Club golf course had its grand opening presided over by the country’s top golf enthusiast, Prime Minister Hun Sen. The Angkor Golf Resort, designed by British golf champion Nick Faldo, is set to debut in October.
Tourism Minister Thong Khon said that the proliferation of golf courses in Siem Reap is a positive development that will draw money from the rich to benefit Siem Reap’s poor residents.
“In general, the more golf courses the better…but I don’t support illegal ones,” he said.
Thong Khon also said he had no information about a South Korean golf course being built within the protected area.
Max Kaendler, clubhouse manager of the Phokeethra Country Club, said he has heard that South Koreans were building a golf course nearby, but expressed doubt that it was on protected grounds.
“[I have heard] they are closer to Angkor Wat than we are but they are building on an already developed area,” he said.
Phokeethra Country Club lies 23 km from the temples in Siem Reap.
Kaendler said that during construction of his course, a 20-meter bridge dating back to the 11th Century was discovered and Phokeethra has been following the Apsara Authority’s guidelines to ensure its preservation.
“We work very closely with [Apsara] to ensure the sustainable development of the Angkorian complex and the area around it,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Suzy Khimm and Pin Sisovann)