King Urges Protection for Angkor Temples

King Norodom Sihanouk la­mented the government’s ex­ploitation of the country’s celebrated Angkor temples in a letter posted on his Web site late last week.

King Sihanouk criticized the country’s leaders, who he said have made themselves rich by attracting hordes of tourists without regard for the environment around the temples in Siem Reap province.

“This senseless and destructive exploitation of Angkor and of our forests enrich a lot of ‘pillars’…of this ‘regime,’ which inevitably will leave a very, very bad ‘name’ in the history of Cambodia and the universal history, leaving the pro­vince of Siem Reap and its people in misery, a misery worthy of the regime of Pol Pot-Khmer Rou­ges,” the King wrote.

He cited a report from France’s Le Monde newspaper, dated Nov 16 and Nov 17, which quoted Etienne Clement, an official from the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, as saying the Angkor site does not have the capacity to receive the current influx of tourists without creating damage to the property.

While the site “has the value of gold,” King Sihanouk said that most of the dozens of hotels built along National Route 6 are owned by army officials, or tourism and finance officials. Draft regulations on the planning of the area, which had been created in 2002 and took into account the environment, were rejected by the government, he added.

“Therefore, the hotels are blocking the drainage canals to the point of provoking floods,” the King said. “In a country where corruption is in fash­ion…the enrichment of the environs of Angkor do not make us forget that the province of Siem Reap remains one of the most poor of the Kingdom, itself among the most disadvantaged countries.”

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