Chinese Leader Offers Help Build Gov’t Building Ministers

Chinese Deputy Prime Minister Wu Yi offered to help build a new Council of Ministers building following a stop in Prime Minister Hun Sen’s lavatory in 2004, Hun Sen said Tuesday.

“The Chinese Deputy Prime Min­is­ter visited Cambodia and had a private meeting with me,” Hun Sen said in Kandal province.

“She asked to use the toilet, and after she used it, she told her officers that the prime minister’s toilet was not equal to a Chinese official’s, so she would help to build one,” he said.

Plans for the new multi-million dollar, eight-story-tall building, ex­pected to be located behind the exis­ting structure on Russian Boule­vard, show a glass-front structure with Khmer-style ornamentation on the top.

But the toilets in the current Council of Ministers-a 1963 building by legendary Cambodian architect Vann Molyvann-are not the only de­tail that needs upgrading, officials said.

Council of Ministers Secretary of State Khau Menghean said the new $49 million structure-paid for entirely by the Chinese-will replace the cur­rent cramped and crumbling structure.

“I am happy to have the new building because we are concerned about our security every day,” Khau Menghean said.

Council of Ministers spokesman Kim Sowath said the current building might be destroyed when the new one is built.

“In the previous plan, we would’ve destroyed the building, but with the new one I don’t know yet,” he said.                         The building is loosely based on a similarly curved building in Paris: the UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization headquarters, which was under construction while Vann Molyvann was studying there, he said.

Vann Molyvann declined to evaluate his own work, but added: “The land in this place is probably the most expensive in the town of Phnom Penh…. They can no longer find land with low density like this place, so it is a golden opportunity to sell.”

He added that the garden-lined road gives tourists one of their first impressions of the city on their way in from Phnom Penh International Airport.

“It is the gate of the town,” he said.

Architect and researcher Helen Grant Ross said that although Vann Molyvann’s work is important, the Council of Ministers is not representative of his later achievements.

“It is a very early work, and it doesn’t really fit in with his work,” she said, adding that the building has already suffered some wear and unfortunate changes.


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