Appeal Court Ruling Sets Historic Renakse Hotel on Path To Demolition

Minister Min Khin Says Colonial-era Building is “Old” and Phnom Penh Needs “Modern” Constructions

The Appeal Court yesterday rejected a request to reinstate the lease once held by the former manager of the capital’s historic Renakse Hotel, parts of which a senior government official said are slated for demolition.

Reading the verdict, Judge Khun Leang Meng said the court would uphold the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s July, 2009 decision to annul the Renakse Hotel lease on the grounds that Khem Chantha, as the manager, had violated the terms of her contract by not appreciably renovating the building, located on Sothearos Boulevard opposite the Royal Palace.

Ms Chantha, who managed the hotel since 1992 and held a 49-year lease, will also have to pay $30,000 in compensation to the hotel’s previous owner, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling CPP.

Neither Ms Chantha nor her lawyer was present in court yesterday.

After the verdict was read in the court, the CPP’s lawyer Khiev Sepphan said the ruling party would consider giving Ms Chantha $200,000 if she did not attempt to appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

“She should receive that money and drop the case. If she still wants to continue it, I think that she might be wasting her time and losing money,” he said.

Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary when police forced staff and guests to leave the hotel premises, handing the business over to municipal authorities for “temporary protection.”

Minister of Cults and Religion Min Khin, who has acted on behalf of the ruling party in the case, said he thought the decision was fair because, he claimed, Ms Chantha did not respect the lease.

He called the historic, turn of the 20th century French colonial-era building “too old” and reiterated that sections of the building will be torn down and “redeveloped” by the new owner of the establishment.

“I know some parts of the building will be demolished because it is an old building. We want to develop the city and [have] modern buildings,” the minister said, adding he did not know when the demolition would take place.

Mr Khin, on behalf of the CPP, sold the hotel in 2008 to local developer Alexson for $3.8 million.

Cambodia’s Unesco office has said demolishing the hotel would be a blow to cultural preservation while independent architectural experts have said that the hotel falls within the historic preservation area around the Royal Palace and should be protected from the wrecking ball.

Reached by telephone, Ms Chantha said her lawyer was told the wrong date by the court and felt the error was done in an effort to trick her into not appear at the hearing.

Mr Chantha declined to say if she would appeal the decision, stating she needed to speak with her lawyer.


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