Defunct Hotel’s Manager Protests Supreme Court Decision

A businessman trying to re­open the shuttered Landmark Ho­tel has protested an April 18 de­cision by the Supreme Court of Cam­bodia ordering him to move out of the hotel and pay $500,000 in rent for a period when the ho­tel was sometimes closed for renovations.

Na Ramit Narula, a longtime res­­ident of Phnom Penh, said his 10-year-lease of the hotel property runs until 2005. Narula said the Su­preme Court’s April 18 decision did not give him enough time to raise money to pay the back rent. He said he asked for an extension, but it was denied.

The property, located on Noro­dom Boulevard, has been at the center of a legal dispute since the 1997 factional fighting, when soldiers shut it down amid street fighting. It then was temporarily leased to another person until Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sop­hara intervened after two months to allow Narula to continue his business.

Narula and property owner Sauch Sen were in court in 1998 to sort out who should pay for the hotel’s losses incurred by the street fighting, which all but killed the tourist trade.

A settlement reached in Phnom Penh Muni­cipal Court on Sept 15, 1998, called for Narula to reopen the hotel at a rent of $15,000 a month.

Narula said the Supreme Court should not even have heard the latest case, which was brought by representatives of Sauch Sen’s es­tate, who has since died.

Narula said the court’s action violated the 1998 agreement and that the pro­per authority for hearing disputes in the matter is the Cambo­dian Development Corpo­ration, a government-funded ag­ency that administers foreign investment in Cambodia.

The CDC approved Narula’s original lease of the hotel on May 9, 1995.

The director of the CDC, Sok Chenda Sophea, said he had no knowledge of the CDC’s involvement in the Landmark Hotel lease when he was contacted this week. Chea Vuthy, CDC’s director of information, also declined to comment.

Narula’s case has found supporters, however, among officials at the Ministry of Justice, including Suy Nou, the secretary of state, and Undersecretary of State Um Bun Theurn. In a May 22 letter they wrote to Prince Noro­dom Ranariddh, president of the National Assembly, the two men charge that the Supreme Court violated laws by hearing the case and then ruling as they did.

Narula said he hopes to restore the 1998 agreement and reopen the hotel.

He added that his law­yer told him the judges hearing the case in the Supreme Court were asking for money before they ruled against him.

“Where’s the justice?” he asked.



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