Over the objections of politicians and civil society groups, workmen are busily putting the finishing touches on the concrete structures of the new Naga Casino and hotel, a brief visit to the site on Monday revealed.
“Roughly 70 percent” of the construction is finished, a worker said.
About 300 meters away, three citizens watched from a bench in Hun Sen Park. “The building itself is very nice, but culturally speaking it is uglier than anything to have a casino in such a prohibited zone,” Bun Pona, 40, said.
The new buildings comprise two towers, eight and 12 stories tall, next to the planned National Assembly complex, the Buddhist Institute and the planned Ministry of Foreign Affairs building. Not only do they flagrantly violate height restrictions for the area, they also go against the ban on casinos in the Phnom Penh city limits.
The constructions “are affecting the national culture,” National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh said on the floor of the Assembly on Monday.
In its monthly magazine, the Center for Social Development also blasted the buildings. The magazine’s cover bears a cartoon showing gargantuan concrete towers rising above the tiny Independence Monument, the Assembly and the Royal Palace.
On top of the towers, the cartoon depicts people playing cards, urinating and vomiting off the side, and taking drugs.
But complaints about the structures have failed to slow their upward rise. On Monday, Prince Ranariddh demanded that any future constructions proposed in the city be approved by the ministries of Culture and Tourism.
Minister of Finance Keat Chhon has also criticized the casino, saying it would have a negative effect on Cambodian culture.
The complaints come as some lawmakers are also pushing for the destruction of new buildings on the grounds of the Olympic Stadium.