A complaint has been filed with Siem Reap Provincial Court alleging that stone from an ancient quarry in the province was used to build part of the luxury Sokha Hotel owned by Sokimex President Sok Kong, court officials said Sunday.
Sok Kong, whose Sokha Hotels company also controls the concession to collect entrance fees at the Angkor Archeological Park, said he was questioned Thursday in relation to the court complaint but said the allegations were unfounded.
“The crazy group just says that,” Sok Kong said of the allegations that mudstone from the ancient O’Thmar Dap quarry was used at his hotel.
“It is not true,” he said, adding that the stones used are not mudstone and were not taken from O’Thmar Dap but from nearby. “It is new stone,” he said.
Siem Reap court Deputy Prosecutor Bou Bun Hang said that Teng Mab, of the design firm that built the Sokha Hotel, and construction foreman Yang Khem have been in prison since Aug 5, charged with allegedly using mudstone from the O’Thmar Dap quarry in Svay Leu district.
“They dug for the stones to construct part of the hotel,” Bou Bun Hang said.
Bou Bun Hang said the men were charged under Article 63 of the Law on National Heritage Protection.
He added that if convicted, the men could face between two and eight years in jail and fines.
“This is one of the serious crimes,” he said.
The original complaint was filed in Siem Reap court by Kheng Someth, chairman of the Kham Someth company, which is building a road from Kulen Mountain to the Koh Ker temple in Preah Vihear province.
Kheng Someth said that he filed the complaint seven months ago after discovering that O’Thmar Dap was being destroyed.
Kheng Someth said that he was awarded a concession from the government to sell tickets to the O’Thmar Dap site.
Siem Reap court Investigating Judge Ang Mealtey said he invited Sok Kong to be questioned at the court on Thursday, but Sok Kong asked to be questioned at the Ministry of Interior’s Special Heritage Department instead.
Heritage Police Chief Tan Chay said that Sok Kong was questioned by the investigating judge but declined to comment on the questioning.
“[O’Thmar Dap] is not under my protection because there is nothing to protect,” Tan Chay said.
“But it is a place where ancient people took stones to build Angkor,” he added.
Apsara Authority Deputy Director Soeung Kong said that O’Thmar Dap is not inside the Angkor protected area, but a royal decree dictates that mudstone can only be used to renovate ancient temples.
“The number of stones is limited so they are only for the temples,” he said.
Archaeologist Christophe Pottier, director of the Ecole Francaise d’Extrême-Orient, or EFEO, said Sunday that it was important to preserve ancient quarries from the Angkor era.
“By studying them we can learn how the ancient Khmer got the stone, how they organized and built the Angkor temples. It is good to preserve Angkor Wat, but civilization is not just temples,” he said.
Pottier added that sites near Kulen Mountain are in danger of exploitation by mining and construction companies as Kulen is one of the few local sites where such companies can extract sandstone.
(Additional reporting by Erik Wasson)