Gov’t May Privatize Management of Wat Phnom

Concerned by the meager revenue generated from foreign visitors to the city’s landmark Wat Phnom, the municipality may hand management of the site over to a pri­­vate company, officials said Monday.

“City Hall plans to call private companies who are interested in Wat Phnom to come join the bid to run Wat Phnom,” Deputy Gov­er­nor Choup Khon said by phone.

The municipality came up with the idea of possibly privatizing Wat Phnom because the $1 entrance fee, charged only to foreign visitors, does not cover the cost of the small park’s upkeep, Choup Khon said.

“The revenue we get from Wat Phnom is not enough for its ex­penses,” he said, noting that this is not the first idea the municipality considered to generate more cash from the location.

“First we thought about increasing the ticket price, but the Gover­nor of Phnom Penh [Kep Chuk­tema] said that we should not do that,” he said.

According to a copy of City Hall’s December agenda, officials will meet Wednesday to discuss the management of Wat Phnom.

Choup Khon added that he did not know yet how a private company could succeed in balancing the Wat Phnom budget when the municipality had failed .

The city has made repairs and im­­provements to Wat Phnom, such as recently building a children’s playground and erecting the statue of Yeay Penh nearby to at­tract more tourists, said Ho Van­dy, president of the Cambodian As­so­ciation of Travel Agents.

Original plans to increase the en­trance fee for foreigners were abandoned when the global financial crisis hit, he said.

SRP lawmaker Yim Sovann said by telephone that bringing in a private company to manage the site would be tantamount to “selling” Wat Phnom.

“It is the government’s duty to pay with state money sometimes, [in order] to have the place free for people to visit,” he said.

“[Private management] is just their excuse in an attempt to sell [Wat Phnom]; it should not be done,” he added.

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