U.S. first lady Michelle Obama’s stay at the Hotel Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra during her two-day visit to Siem Reap province to promote the “Let Girls Learn” initiative last weekend cost taxpayers nearly $250,000, according to a copy of the U.S. government contract released this week.
The delegation of U.S. officials, Secret Service members and logistical personnel rented 85 rooms and five sleeping suites in the 5-star hotel for two weeks, as well as five office suites and a conference room, according to the document posted to the Federal Business Opportunities website.
Due to the U.S. State Department’s last-minute confirmation of Ms. Obama’s visit, the bill added up to a total of $242,500, according to the contract.
The first lady touched down in Siem Reap City on the evening of March 21 after a three-day visit to Japan to tout the same initiative, which promotes the empowerment of girls through extended education.
The first leg of her journey also raised eyebrows when it was revealed that her visit to a Buddhist temple in Kyoto cost U.S. taxpayers nearly $80,000 in limousine fees.
The Washington Free Beacon, the online newspaper that first reported the figures, also noted the brevity of each of her engagements in Siem Reap—two speeches totaling just over half an hour, a 21-minute visit to meet high-school students and an afternoon stroll through the Angkor Wat temple complex.
Jay Raman, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, declined to comment on the expenses. Management at the Sofitel Angkor also declined to comment.
In the days after Ms. Obama’s visit, Prime Minister Hun Sen criticized the U.S. for failing to back up its message of empowering young women through education with the funding for scholarships that would enable them to attend university.