The government has granted permission for a new Siem Reap provincial police headquarters to be built inside the Angkor complex, a UN world heritage protected area, Apsara Authority Direc-tor-General Bun Narith said Tuesday.
The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization had encouraged the Apsara Authority, the government organization managing the Angkor Archeological Park, to protect the site of the new police headquarters—located near the airport—from being built on.
Tamara Teneishvili, Unesco culture program specialist, said Tuesday that she was surprised permission had been granted. “We just learned and we are surprised because the Royal decree legitimizing Angkor as a world heritage site prohibits construction,” on the new site, Teneishvili said.
Bun Narith said he was uncertain when the decision to locate the police base at the new site was made, but added that a letter granting permission for construction was issued by the Council of Ministers several months ago. Construction work is now under way, he said.
“We don’t understand why [permission was granted], but it depends on the decision of the Royal Government of Cambodia,” Bun Narith said. “Maybe there is a necessity because it’s an international airport and security has to be tight,” he added.
The airport is also located inside the protected area but was built before the protection zone was designated.
The government will likely decide to relocate the airport in the future but not anytime soon because of the heavy costs involved in such a project, Bun Narith said.
The current provincial police headquarters is located on prime real estate near retired King Norodom Sihanouk’s residence in the center of Siem Reap town. It is unclear what will become of the old police headquarters.
A slew of state land swap deals between private companies and government officials has come to light recently. Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay has called on the co-Ministers of Interior Sar Kheng and Prince Norodom Sirivudh to reveal all agreements involved in the sale or trade of police property.