Project May Bring Stored Artifacts to Light

A Japanese company has proposed a $50 million development project in Siem Reap that would include a museum, a five-star hotel, a theater and a conference center.

Sok Chenda, secretary-general of the Council for Development of Cambodia, said Monday the CDC has received a proposal from the Angkor International Museum Co Ltd.

While the proposal has not yet been officially approved, Seang Nam, a powerful CPP parliamentarian in Siem Reap, said Monday that Prime Minister Hun Sen had met with the developer in Siem Reap and agreed to the deal.

For preservationists and cultural officials, the key part of the project is the museum, which would house a vast collection of Khmer artifacts currently kept out of public view at the Conservation d’Angkor compound.

Scholars and art enthusiasts have said for years that the priceless collection should be displayed in a museum in Siem Reap, but there has never been enough money to do it.

“The state needs to properly con­trol every single one of these artifacts,” said Chuch Phoeurn, un­­der­secretary of state for the Minis­try of Culture. “We will not allow them to sleep in storage any more.”

It could not be learned Monday how much of the $50 million would be devoted to the planned museum and how much to the hotel, theater or conference center.

Sok Chenda said that the museum would be built under a build-own-transfer scheme, in which the investor retains control of a project for a time before turning it over to the government.

The hotel, theater and conference center would be standard business investments, he said. The project would be located north of Siem Reap on the main road to Angkor Wat, between the Jayavarman VII children’s hospital and the Imperial Hotel currently under construction.

“It will be outside the restricted zone,” Sok Chenda said, referring to a buffer zone around the Angkor Archeological Park designed to keep development away from the historic temples.

Chuch Phoeurn said the project would be built on land owned by the Ministry of Culture and would be leased to the developer for 30 years.

In an unrelated development, the ministry has asked the Council of Ministers to build three small museums in the provinces of Banteay Meanchey, Battambang and Kompong Thom.

The museums would cost $4,700 apiece, Chuch Phoeurn said. Eventually the ministry would like to build one in every province.

Khun Samen, director of the National Museum in Phnom Penh, welcomed the plan. “If we could have museums all over the country, it would help students’ awareness of their national heritage,” he said.

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