Saturday, 28 February 2015

Hun Sen & Co. Exploits Angkor Wat

“I cannot accept [Son Chhay’s findings] because of the three pieces of evidence: the report of the president of Apsara to the delegation, the slideshow, and the report given to us [by the Apsara Authority].”

CPP senior lawmaker Cheam Yeap, 1 January 2015, The Phnom Penh Post

 “We have already made this written clarification, so if he [Son Chhay] doesn’t accept this, it’s up to him.”

Spokesman for the Council of Ministers Phay Siphan, 9 January 2015, The Cambodia Daily

“One reason [for Son Chhay’s claims] was an aim to take political benefits, and another reason was an aim to take revenge against the Apsara Authority because he once lost a case related to an anarchic land encroachment in the Cultural and Tourism City of Siem Reap province.”

The Apsara Authority statement, 26 December 2014 [The Cambodia Daily]

“Apsara Authority does not hire out the temples to Sokha Hotel [Sokimex]. In fact, the authority only hired the company to provide ticket revenue collection services on our behalf – a common action that public administrations or governments in other countries have also implemented.”

The Apsara Authority statement, 25 November 2014 [The Cambodia Daily]

“The fee for the land lease [$9 million], which has not yet been paid to the national budget, has certainly not gone anywhere, meaning it is a technical problem with accounting, so the money will be paid to the state later.”

Apsara Authority director-general Bun Narith, 9 January 2015, The Cambodia Daily

Angkor Wat is shrouded in mysteries. While nobody is certain how it was built, only a few know how much income it has generated for Hun Sen & Co.

So, according to statistics director Kong Sopheareak at the Tourism Ministry, there are 4.5 million foreign visitors to Cambodia in 2014, and Apsara Authority (AA) claims only 2.06 million, or 46%, of them pays to visit Angkor. Thus, what are the other 2.44 million visitors doing in the country? Or do they enter Angkor Wat Park without paying, keeping Angkor revenues down? Or, what are the pull factors for them?

Maybe they do a real estate survey for future residence. The Tourism Ministry figures indicate the largest group of all (803,591) in the first 11 months of 2014 are from Vietnam, to which Hun Sen is indebted for his power.

Anyway, published numbers for Angkor revenues have been unexpectedly subjected to close scrutiny. And it is the reactions of Hun Sen & Co. that reveals the numbers are fudged.

First, Hun Sen & Co. launch personal attacks on parliamentarian Son Chhay who challenges the numbers and rejects their simplistic responses. They resort to kicking the man rather than the ball because they have something to hide.

Second, Hun Sen & Co.’s simplistic approach in defending the numbers is bewildering. Cheam Yeap says the words of the AA president are sufficient to quell any doubt. Phay Siphan claims the clarification in writing is enough for anyone to accept the figures validity and reliability. How na├»ve can they be to reject an independent verification?

Of course, the matter could be settled once and for all with an audit by the National Audit Authority (NAA). However, the only difference between the NAA and AA is the affix “N” stuck in front, and the AA may as well stand for Alcoholics Anonymous. They are so drunk the NAA annual report for 2006 is published in 2009; the 2007 report takes another year longer in 2011. None mentions any audit work at the AA, anyhow.

Indeed, the whole Angkor management is dubious. The AA claims in November 2014 it does not lease the Angkor land to Sok Kong’s private company Sokimex, only to admit a few weeks later that it is in fact leased to the company. The leasing contract is so sweet that Sokimex must be an integral part of Hun Sen & Co. The whole 26-hectare plot of Cultural and Tourism City in Seam Reap is leased for 77 years for a whopping $9 million – a sum Son Chhay has the nerve to describe it as peanuts.

And best of all, (let drumroll begin), the $9 million has not been paid into the State revenue, due to what Bun Narith claims – wait for it – an accounting problem that seems to persist for more than a decade. Thus, either the AA accountant is perpetually intoxicated, or the money must be sitting pretty somewhere in Hun Sen & Co.’s pockets.

Where else could the cash be?

Ung Bun Ang

Parthian Shot

Who is Phay Siphan trying to kid, besides himself, about his government not lying? It is a blatant assault on the intelligence of CPP government supporters.

But again, as they say, if you repeat any lie often enough, you will believe yourself that it is all true. Hence, Phay Siphan may believe he tells the truth all along.

“We [the government] don’t say anything to earn funding for reports [like Licadho does]; the government is looking for votes… We don’t lie to the people, we don’t play games with the people; we want our people to be happy.”

Government spokesman Phay Siphan, 20 February 2015, The Phnom Penh Post

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