City Governor Means to Stop ‘Illegal’ Apartment Building

Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara says the Ministry of Education has approved the construction of 80 illegal apartments on the site of the National Olym­pic Stadium.

The governor said he would meet with officials from the Ministry of Urbanization, Land Management and Construction to find a way to block the project, which is already well under way.

“I have not seen any license to allow the company to build those flats for sale,” he said. “I only found a ‘vision map’ by the construction company submitted to the Ministry of Education.

“The company plans to sell each flat for $90,000. It is not right.”

City regulations forbid the construction of buildings higher than the Royal Palace or Wat Phnom along the city’s major thoroughfares, defined as Norodom, Mon­ivong and Sihanouk boulevards.

Buildings taller than three stories—including the ground floor—are prohibited on those streets. The stadium plans call for four-story buildings along Siha­nouk Boulevard.

Urbanization Ministry Sec­retary of State Nou Saing Khan said he will ask the company to stop work until the ministry has completed a proper study of the project. He said the apartment building’s height could hurt the stadium’s atmosphere.

“It has no official approval from the ministry,” he said. “The stadium is a work of national heritage. The other construction has to match with it. It has to match with our culture.”

Last month, Minister of Ed­ucation, Youth and Sport Tol Lah said the renovation agreement between the government and construction company Yuan Ta was “80 percent done.”

The company has already spent $2 million on the project, Ministry of Education Secretary of State Pok Than said.

At the stadium complex Tues­day, 15 workers were hard at work on the apartments while a smaller number were working on the stadium.

“The company is more focused on the apartments than the stadium,” said one supervisor who asked not to be named. Guards would not let a reporter into the Yuan Ta headquarters on site.

In May 2000, Yuan Ta paid the government $3.6 million and agreed to rehabilitate the dilapidated stadium in return for permission to develop the surrounding parklands into a $40 million hotel, office and retail complex. The contract required Yuan Ta to complete the stadium renovation first. The entire project was to have taken five years, but work has repeatedly stalled, with workers complaining of problems getting paid. City and urbanization ministry officials have said they have not been informed about construction plans.

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said Monday he is planning to form a committee to investigate charges that Edu­cation Ministry officials took bribes to allow the construction to continue.

Children had been allowed to play in the stadium during a pause in construction. But since the erection of a fence, they have been once again banned from playing on the site.


Related Stories

Latest News