The Phnom Penh Municipal Department of Land Management and Construction inspected the Renakse Hotel on Thursday over concerns that the historic building, which played a central role in the French colonial administration, might collapse.
The Renakse has been at the center of a public dispute between its owners, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling CPP, and the hotel’s longtime manager, Kim Chanta, who is fighting an eviction order by the party.
Khiev Sepphan, the lawyer representing Minister of Cults and Religion Min Khin, said he asked the municipal land management department to examine the CPP-owned building because “we are concerned about the security of guests.”
“We want to know if it is too old and if it has to be destroyed and replaced by a new building,” Khiev Sepphan said.
Kim Chanta, who the CPP is trying to remove from the hotel despite a long-term lease she holds, said she was not worried about the state of the building, as she had always kept up maintenance of the hotel. She added that she had invested about $550,000 since 2001 on renovating the hotel’s 35 rooms.
“I don’t understand why they need the inspection,” she said, adding, “Min Khin usually harasses me.”
Min Khin had arranged the sale of the hotel for $3.8 million on behalf of the CPP to a private company in September, without informing Kim Chanta, who has a 48-year lease on the hotel. Min Khin declined to comment Thursday.
Architectural historian Darryl Collins, co-author of the 2007 book “Building Cambodia: New Khmer Architecture 1953-1970,” said the Renakse building probably dates to the turn of the 20th century and that under French colonial rule it would have housed the Cambodian Court or the Council of Ministers.
The Cambodian Court, known as the “Tribunal Cambodgien,” was used for local matters and would not have the authority of the French High Court, which was housed in the current Ministry of Justice building neighboring the Renakse, he said.
“There should be some consideration of historical buildings,” Collins said. “It’s crazy to demolish something when it can be reused.”
Municipal department of land management and construction deputy bureau chief Mao Bunsiv confirmed that he went to inspect the Renakse hotel Thursday, but he declined to comment on his findings as the hotel’s owner and leaseholder currently disagree on its future.