Ruling Party Lawmaker Hits Back Over Angkor Wat Claims

Senior ruling party lawmaker Cheam Yeap called a press conference Wednesday to excoriate opposition lawmaker Son Chhay for making what he said were “exaggerated” claims about the mismanagement of ticket revenues for the Angkor Archaeological Park.

Mr. Yeap, chairman of the National Assembly’s banking and finance committee, and Mr. Chhay, the deputy chairman, last week visited the Siem Reap province offices of the Apsara Authority, which manages the park.

Speaking to various media outlets following the meeting, Mr. Chhay claimed the authority is massively underreporting the ticket sales for Angkor Wat.

Mr. Yeap said Wednesday that he disagreed with Mr. Chhay and that the opposition lawmaker was obligated to fall in line behind him as the chairman.

“This is exaggerated and I cannot accept it,” he said of Mr. Chhay’s claims. “I won’t allow my commission to be split up, so I say that if you don’t follow, I will file a complaint. I will inform the National Assembly president or the parliament’s standing committee.”

Asked what type of complaint he would file against Mr. Chhay, Mr. Yeap appeared to back down.

“I don’t use the word ‘complaint,’” Mr. Yeap said. “[But] the standing committee has the right to make a decision on every kind of issue.”

The parliament’s standing committee is made up of the Assembly’s 10 committee chairs, as well as its president and two vice presidents. The CPP lays claim to five committee chairs, the president, and one of the vice presidents, giving it a seven-to-six majority on the standing committee.

Mr. Yeap explained that his grievances against Mr. Chhay stem from his history of bad behavior on the commission, despite efforts from his peers to cooperate.

“He listens to nobody on the commission,” Mr. Yeap said.

The CPP lawmaker suggested that Mr. Chhay’s outspokenness could have gotten him into fights in other parliaments, which he said are less prone to the cooperation that is expected in Cambodia’s National Assembly.

“In some other parliaments, they take the microphones and beat each other, such as in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and India, etc.,” Mr. Yeap said.

“His Excellency Son Chhay considers himself as an opposition guy. Even if something is right, he opposes it,” he said. “If two plus two equals four, Mr. Chhay says it is equal to 4.1 or 3.9.”

Mr. Chhay could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Yeap also used the press conference to reiterate the government’s plans to move the Siem Reap International Airport further away from Angkor Wat.

“Samdech [Prime Minister Hun Sen] plans to move the airport far away from the World Heritage Site,” he said. “In the future, this airport will be in the western part of Siem Reap, about 40 km away.”

Mr. Yeap explained that the move is necessary to protect Angkor Wat from wayward airplanes.

“Sometimes we just can’t know, unfortunately when [an airplane] is landing, and does not reach the runway, it could crash into the Angkor Wat temple.”

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