Siem Reap provincial officials said Monday the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has fired off letters urging the government to pull the plug on army General Chea Morn’s karaoke resort on the Angkor Wat complex’s Western Baray.
Development is banned near the temples, as part of Cambodia’s agreement with the UN to protect the country’s only World Heritage site. The general’s unauthorized venture sparked irate headlines worldwide in October.
Officials of the Apsara Authority, which oversees the temple complex, visited the site Sunday to assess the situation. On Wednesday, Unesco’s new director-general, Koichiro Matsuura, will make his first visit to Cambodia.
“The buildings are still there, but there was no activity,” one Apsara official said. “We will be renewing our efforts” to get the stone structures dismantled, the official said.
Chea Morn, the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces commander of Region 4, could not be reached for comment. He said in October he would back off if the government asked him to, and that he was just trying to provide a nice spot for soldiers to relax.
Ung Oeurn, Siem Reap first deputy governor, said Monday in response to the Unesco letters he has visited the site, in the southwestern corner of the baray.
He said he saw no buildings, and that Chea Morn had simply erected a temporary tent at the site for a party. “Now it is taken away,” he said.
But he was apparently referring only to the top of the huge dike that encloses the baray. In October, a tent atop the dike was indeed providing shade for a half-dozen late-model four-wheel-drive vehicles.
The karaoke parlor, however, is built on the sloping northern face of the dike, which drops about 10 meters between the dike’s top and the water. Cambodia Daily reporters visiting the site in October photographed stone buildings, stairs and cement terraces jutting out into the baray.
Ung Oeurn said the site had served as a military radio installation for a number of years, protecting the nearby Siem Reap airport. Prior to that, he said, it had been a nightclub in the 1960s.
The Western Baray, just west of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, is a huge rectangular reservoir considered an integral part of the temple complex.