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.