Businesswoman Suy Sophan remained unrepentant after a closed-door meeting with lawmakers at the National Assembly on Thursday about her controversial Borei Keila property in central Phnom Penh, continuing to deny that she broke a contract to provide all evictees with new apartments.
Ms. Sophan’s company, Phanimex, was granted the 2.6-hectare plot in 2007 and in return agreed to build 10 adjacent apartment blocks for the area’s 1,776 families. Since then, however, she has built only eight of the promised blocks, claiming she ran out of money for the rest.
More than 100 families also claim that they are still owned apartments, but Ms. Sophan says they lack the documents to prove they used to live there.
Her meeting Thursday with the Assembly’s new Anti-Corruption Commission, headed by the opposition CNRP, did nothing to change her mind.
“I told the commission that I have already built the buildings for 1,261 families,” she told reporters after the meeting.
“We constructed the buildings based on the number of people who really lived in Borei Keila. For those who did not live in Borei Keila, we do not have apartments for them,” she said.
CNRP lawmaker Ho Vann, who heads the commission and invited Ms. Sophan to the meeting, said the businesswoman also defended her decision to turn the ground floor of each apartment block into commercial spaces instead of the parking lots she had promised, and that she denied any responsibility in relation to claims of nepotism in the handing out of some of the apartments in the buildings that were constructed.
Mr. Vann said he was still convinced she broke her contract and that he would write to Prime Minister Hun Sen if she continued to refuse to honor it.
“I told her that if she does not end the problem I will write a letter to the prime minister and ask him not to believe the previous report [from Ms. Sophan] claiming she did not have enough money” to construct the remaining two buildings, he said.
Chhay Kimhorn, who claims she was unfairly denied an apartment and now lives in a makeshift tent in the shadow of the new blocks, said she had little hope the commission’s efforts would amount to anything.
“I don’t have 100 percent hope it will be successful because we don’t see that what we demand has happened; I hope only 30 percent,” she said. “I think Ms. Suy Sophan is avoiding the problem.”