A fight over how best to develop the ancient city of Odong has centered on who should collect donations left at the site by a growing crowd of tourists.
The ridge-top collection of temples dedicated to ancient Cambodian kings is one of the nation’s most significant cultural sites, but it only recently has begun to draw tourists up National Route 5 from Phnom Penh, thanks to an improved road and renovations at the temple site. The spotlight shone even brighter on Odong last month when thousands of people flocked to the ancient city to watch King Norodom Sihanouk lay a Buddhist relic to rest there.
National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh said at the Assembly Monday that the Ministry of Culture should now take over the renovations and maintenance of the site from the Ministry of Tourism.
“So far $26,000 has been raised,” the prince said, but the money has gone to the Ministry of Tourism and has not been used effectively to develop the site, he charged. The Assembly donated an additional $1,000 to build toilets and clean the area.
The prince said people should plant jasmine flowers at the temple area to make it more aromatic.
Royal Cabinet Minister Kong Som Ol has written a request to Prime Minister Hun Sen, CPP Party President Chea Sim and Prince Ranariddh, asking that the area be transferred to the Ministry of Culture’s control. The King issued a royal message on the issue on Saturday.
Funcinpec lawmaker Klok Buddhi said Monday during a debate at the Assembly that a committee should be established to care for Odong.
“There are more international tourists visiting the area, so it needs to be better protected,” he said. “One stupa is made of gold, and when the recent Buddhist rally was there, millions of people went there and littered the area with plastic bags.
“If we involve many authorities the area will be clean and developed,” Klok Buddhi said. He said the land is now managed by local authorities, with the Ministry of Tourism collecting the revenues from donations.