The government has renewed the Sokha Hotels and Resorts’ contract for managing ticket collection at Angkor Archaeological Park, said Sok Kong, Sokha Hotels company owner and head of petroleum giant Sokimex, on Wednesday.
The renewal took place in July without public bidding, Sok Kong said.
“My company will continue to work with Apsara Authority for another five years, from now until 2010,” he said, adding that the contract renewal was approved by Prime Minister Hun Sen and Prince Norodom Ranariddh, as co-chairmen of the Council for the Development of Cambodia.
Sok Kong also said the decision was supported by the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the International Monetary Fund and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which helps oversee Angkor Park.
In the previous contract, Apsara Authority—the government agency managing Angkor—received 10 percent of the ticket revenues, and the government and Sokha Hotels respectively took 75 percent and 25 percent of the remaining amount, Sok Kong said.
With the new contract, Apsara Authority’s share will increase to 15 percent, while the government receives 80 percent and Sokha Hotels 20 percent of the remainder, he said.
In addition, the Sokha Hotels company has committed to spending $1 million a year on facilities for the park, Sok Kong said.
“Sokha will be offering better service by preparing emergency ambulance, fire-fighting trucks, toilets and security protection,” he said.
In recent years, the IMF has repeatedly called for increasing the government’s share of revenue from Angkor’s ticket sales.
IMF County Representative Robert Hagemann said in an e-mail message that he did not know whether the new deal would accomplish this.
“Since the extension of the contract was not competitively bid, it is not possible to know if the government (that is, the Cambodian citizens) could have or would have obtained a yet better deal,” he wrote.
Unesco Country Representative Etienne Clement said he could not comment on the deal because he had only learned of it Wednesday.
Apsara Director General Bun Narith said there had been no public bidding because the CDC and an inter-ministerial committee had discussed the contract with Sokha Hotels several times since the company submitted its renewal proposal in 2003.
“Working with Sokha is a good deal,” he said.
“Before there were a lot of high-ranking requests to bring groups of tourists to Angkor without tickets. But when Sokha started working with the government, there was no more of that kind of thing happening.”
Eurasie Travel Managing Director Moeung Sonn said he had applied to the CDC to run the ticket concession and offered to take only a 10-percent cut. Moeung Soon said he was never told his proposal for the ticket concession was lacking.
“I had been waiting for the government to announce on the TV and other media the date of the bidding process but I did not see it,” he said. “If my company did not meet the criteria, the CDC should have told me.”
Hagemann said the decision not to competitively bid the Angkor ticket contract had been a contentious issue within the government.
“The government was, as I understand, somewhat divided on the merits of having the contract competitively bid at the expiration of the present contract,” he wrote. “Some wanted it competitively bid, others did not.”
Opposition lawmaker Keo Remy decried the lack of public bidding over the lucrative ticketing contract.
“Any deal involving money, [the government] never ever practices transparency,” he said.
Sok Kong said Sokha Hotels has collected $10.8 million so far this year from ticket sales at Angkor park compared to a total of $13 million in all of 2004.