Cambodia’s Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts says that a US$350-million non-gaming resort near the UNESCO World Heritage site Angkor Wat (pictured), in Siem Reap, “cannot be implemented” in the context that it was proposed by its developer. The scheme is being promoted by Hong Kong-listed casino investor NagaCorp Ltd.
NagaCorp runs the NagaWorld casino complex in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. It has an exclusive licence to operate casinos there and in the city’s surroundings.
In November, NagaCorp said it had been granted a 50-year lease on a plot of land “about 500 metres [0.31 miles] south of” the development-restricted zone of Angkor Wat.
The casino firm said the new resort – provisionally called Angkor Lake of Wonder – included hotels and a water theme park, as well as what were described as indoor hi-tech theme parks, water-cruise attractions, cultural attractions and food streets. The first phase of the project was scheduled to open in 2025.
In February, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) had voiced concerns over NagaCorp’s proposal, following discussions conducted in a late January meeting of the International Coordinating Committee for Angkor (ICC-Angkor), a multi-national mechanism to oversee Angkor’s conservation and development.
UNESCO said at the time that the “technical opinions of experts in the fields of conservation and sustainable development were clearly unfavourable” to NagaCorp’s project near the heritage site.
UNESCO also stated that the proximity of NagaCorp’s project to the protected buffer zones of the Angkor Wat site “as well as the scale, scope and concept of the planned activities could indeed have an impact on the outstanding universal value for which Angkor was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.”
In its statement on Tuesday, the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts said it “shared the views of the ICC-Angkor and its ad-hoc experts that the proposed ‘Angkor Lake of Wonder’ project put forward by the Naga group cannot be implemented in this context.” The Ministry did not elaborate on the reasons.
GGRAsia has approached a NagaCorp representative for comment.
The Ministry’s review took into consideration NagaCorp’s proposal and the comments made on January 27 during the plenary session of the ICC-Angkor, as well as in two other subsequent special sessions held respectively on February 22 and March 4, according to the statement.
The ministry’s statement had first been reported by the Phnom Penh Post newspaper.
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