Tourism Minister Proud of ‘Wonders’ Performance

Tourism Minister Thong Khon expressed pride Tuesday that Cambodia had participated in the so-called new seven wonders of the world competition, though senior government officials reiterated their criticism that the contest was biased and belittling to Angkor Wat.

The New7Wonders Foundation announced Saturday that Angkor Wat had failed to garner enough telephone and Internet votes to rank among the new seven wonders of the world.

“We are sorry that we were not elected to the world’s seven wonders, but we are proud for being in the top 21 finalists,” Thong Khon told reporters at Phnom Penh International Airport after returning from Lisbon, Portugal where the contest winners were announced.

Thong Khon, who arrived back from Portugal with Culture Minis­try Secretary of State Chuch Pho­eun, said Cambodia had boosted its profile as an international tourist destination by participating in the competition. “We have lost nothing—we have gained a huge benefit,” he said.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap reiterated his disapproval of the contest Tuesday, saying only organizations like the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization should be allowed to classify important historical sites.

“If any foundation would like to list a world wonder, it needs to follow the methods of UNESCO,” he said. “As a Khmer…I am not happy with the result that Angkor Wat was not elected.”

Christian Manhart, a section chief for UNESCO’s World Heritage Center in Paris, wrote in an e-mail July 4 that it was restrictive to recognize only seven new wonders of the world. “Today’s world is much bigger than…antiquity and has far more inhabitants and monuments. The restriction to just seven sites is not adequate,” he said. “This campaign seems to be more directed towards commercial purposes than the conservation of heritage,” he added.

Tia Viering, head of communications for the New7Wonders Foun­dation, wrote by e-mail that she would not be able to respond to questions for several days due to intense media attention.

SRP Secretary-General Mu So­chua said she agreed with Cheam Yeap that the contest was disrespectful to Angkor Wat, and compared the competition to the US reality television show “Ameri­can Idol.”

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