UNESCO concerned about NagaCorp’s Angkor Wat plans

NagaCorp gains development land near Angkor Wat

NagaCorp’s US$350 million Angkor Lake of Wonder project has drawn eyes narrowed in suspicion from the United Nations’ cultural agency UNESCO.

UNESCO issued a statement yesterday noting, “The proximity of the 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.”

The statement added, “UNESCO is certain that the Cambodian authorities remain fully committed to the implementation of the World Heritage Convention and will ensure that the protection of the outstanding universal value of Angkor remains at the heart of the decision-making processes relating to the property and its surroundings.”

Authorities in Cambodia told the Voice of America that they would absolutely be consulting with UNESCO about NagaCorp’s development plans near Angkor Wat, though they wouldn’t confirm whether or not they believe UNESCO’s approval is necessary to move forward with the project.

NagaCorp has yet to issue any response to UNESCO’s concerns.

NagaCorp unveiled its plans for the Angkor area last November. According to the information that it released at that time, the government of Cambodia had granted to NagaGroup Global Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the company, a fifty-year lease, with an option to renew, on a prime piece of development land sited just about 500 meters south of the outer restricted zone of Angkor Wat.

The company statement explained, “the vision is principally aiming at promoting Angkor Wat Siem Reap and NagaWorld Phnom Penh as the twin tourism icons of Cambodia by leveraging on development of the land lease in Siem Reap into a comprehensive non-gaming integrated world-class resort so that overseas visitors to Cambodia can enjoy and experience the world famous ancient temples of Angkor Wat and the sophisticated NagaWorld complex at the same time with the most competitive price.”

The anticipated non-gaming facilities are being planned by two architectural firms, US-based Steelman Partners and Gensler, and may include three hotels, the Naga Water World park, an indoor Digital Theme Park, a non-motorized boating canal system, MICE facilities, a China Town food street, and more.

Michael Penn is a journalist and scholar based in Tokyo, Japan. As a journalist, he both writes print news articles and produces news videos. On the video side, he has several years of experience doing it all by himself: reporting the stories, shooting the video, and editing the packages. As a scholar, the bulk of his past publications have been about Japan's modern relations with the Islamic world.