The Siem Reap provincial office of the Cambodian Red Cross has swapped land with a private company, moving from a prime spot in the heart of Siem Reap City to a cheaper plot 8 km away and on the outskirts of town, officials said Tuesday.
“We moved to work at a new facility about three months ago,” said Soum Sam An, who heads the Red Cross’ provincial office.
Mr. Sam An said the new site was located in Thnal village, Sra Nge commune, about 8 km from the previous location along the Siem Reap River.
“It’s a swap, but I cannot give more information,” he said. “The new facility is a three-story building, two times bigger than the old one.”
Mr. Sam An declined to name the company that now occupies the old Red Cross site.
CNRP provincial councilor Sok Kimseng on Tuesday criticized the move.
“It’s not officially known whether it was sold or just swapped,” he said. “It’s full of secrecy and the move has been made without transparency.”
Mr. Kimseng added that “the price of land at new location is just under $50 per square meter while the old location in downtown Siem Reap costs more than $1,500 per square meter.”
He said he would raise the issue at a provincial council meeting early next month.
“If I find any irregularity, I will report it to the Anti-Corruption Unit,” he said.
Provincial governor Khem Bunsong could not be reached Tuesday. Men Neary Sopheak, director of communications for the Cambodian Red Cross, declined to comment.
Land swaps have become common practice under the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen, whose wife, Bun Rany, is president of the Cambodian Red Cross.
The swaps often involve well-connected firms acquiring prime real estate in exchange for building replacement offices for the government on land that is much cheaper and often far more remote.