Tycoon Denies Charges of Using Ancient Stones

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)



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