Following media reports that $40,000 was spent to build a luxury outhouse for Thai Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn to use during her recent visit to Ratanakkiri province, authorities released a statement on Friday rejecting the notion that the building was a bathroom.
The building, which the Thai princess inspected but did not use after eating a catered lunch along the Yeak Lom Lake, “is not a toilet,” according to the statement from Ratanakkiri provincial hall, which said a working group visited the structure and found only a sink, chair, air-conditioner, table, window and door.
“This news has a big impact on the honor and dignity of the province, especially as criticism of the provincial authorities came from the public, who did not receive comprehensive information,” it said. “There is no toilet.”
The statement failed to note that a toilet, which had been imported from Thailand, was removed and taken back to Thailand after the princess left the province.
Nhem Sam Oeun, a deputy provincial governor who previously confirmed that the building was an outhouse, said on Sunday he had only gathered information through informal sources, and had not actually seen inside.
“I just thought that [it was a bathroom] through chatting with other people,” he said of the building, now meant to become a community office. “It has affected not only the province and provincial authorities, but also the country as a whole, because it does not sound good saying we are using a toilet as an office.”
Ven Che, president of Yeak Lom Lake community, which has been given the building, blamed the confusion on the fact that the toilet had been removed.
“I initially thought it was a toilet…and other people also said it was a toilet. We spoke wrongly, because it is not a toilet; it is a bathroom,” Mr. Che said.
“I have the intention to use it as an office that will be equipped with computers, desks and sofas to communicate with national and international guests about complaints of security and safety, and to provide them with the information they need,” he added.
The statement from provincial hall blames Chhay Thy, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, for souring public opinion about the building. Mr. Thy noted on Sunday that media outlets had already reported on the building before him, but confirmed that the structure had once been a bathroom.
“I met with the president of the community, and he unlocked the door of the room for me—and my wife and child—to go inside, and he told me the toilet had been removed,” he said.