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Casino Planned Near Angkor Wat

December 17, 1997

SIEM REAP, Cambodia (AP) _ The world famous temples of Angkor, with their stone carvings and detailed bas reliefs, have drawn tens of thousands of tourists each year to northwestern Cambodia.

But since a bloody coup scared off visitors to the architectural treasures in the Siem Reap region, a Singaporean businessman on Wednesday announced plans to build a casino nearby to enliven night life and restore some of its luster for foreign tourists.

Businessman Liao Khoon Ngain said he hoped the Angkor Resort project will ``wake up″ tourism in the area despite continued fighting.

``The night life in Siem Reap right now is zero. It will really put Siem Reap on the world map of tourists,″ Liao said, adding that the government would like to see his project started as soon as possible.

About 44,800 people visited Angkor in 1995. In 1996, the number jumped to 65,500. The number of visitors dropped sharply with fighting that began with the July 5 coup by Second Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Hun Sen toppled former co-premier Prince Norodom Ranariddh in two days of fighting in the capital, shattering a tense coalition put into place by U.N.-organized elections in 1993.

Hun Sen’s troops and forces loyal to Ranariddh continue to battle each other. Fighting flared between the two factions Wednesday, with stray artillery shells falling into Thailand.

Liao said the casino will be built on a 21,600-square-foot area on which the Nokor Phnom hotel is due to open on March 28. It was not immediately clear exactly how close the hotel would be to the temples, the most famous of which is Angkor Wat.

Although the project has not been formally approved by the Ministry of Commerce, Liao said the casino already received approval last month from Hun Sen and his new co-prime minister, Ung Huot.

Liao said the project would target visitors from Macau, Hong Kong, China and Thailand with package deals.

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