Phnom Penh’s celebrity lawyer bumped up against its celebrity governor Thursday—and the governor won.
Now $10,000 poorer, high-profile defense lawyer Benson Samay learned it is unwise to disagree with a man who commands a public works department.
Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara dispatched 30 municipal employees, three dump trucks and a bulldozer to Benson Samay’s home on the west side of Norodom Boulevard early Thursday to remove a wall and gatehouse the city says should never have been built.
The rubble was loaded into city trucks, hauled to Hun Sen Park and used as landfill for Chea Sophara’s planned riverside park.
“They destroyed my gatehouse!” an indignant Benson Samay said Thursday. He said he was at home at the time, and did not understand why no one talked to him first.
City officials said they told him three times the structures were illegal, and when he didn’t act, they did.
Benson Samay’s house is just north of Mao Tse-tung Boulevard. The offending structures encroached about 18 square meters into a small park the city maintains.
Benson Samay, who represents Khmer Rouge leader Ta Mok, admitted he had not asked permission to build the structures because he knew he wouldn’t get it.
Benson Samay said he needs to protect his home because not everyone is happy he is defending Ta Mok.
“I spent around $10,000 to build it three days ago,” he said. “If what I did was so wrong, why did the authorities not take me to court? They probably want to build a gas station in front of my house.”
Chea Sophara said, on the contrary, the city wants to keep the area a park, so drivers can see better at the heavily traveled intersection.