More than 20 Ministry of Culture employees demonstrated in front of the ministry’s headquarters on Monivong Boulevard on Monday and Tuesday, accusing their boss of selling the state-owned building and pocketing the money.
The protesters wrote on the building’s walls in red paint that Culture Minister Nouth Narang was “corrupt” in making the deal. Then, in an ironic twist, they demanded a $2,000-each share of the alleged proceeds.
Culture Minister Nouth Narang on Monday confirmed that the ministry had plans to sell the building, but added: “How can we share money if a deal is not final yet?”
By Tuesday afternoon, Pen Yet, the ministry’s secretary of state, had declared the problem resolved. He said the government had rejected a proposed sale of the building to a private company on the grounds that the price would “cheat” the government.
Pen Yet said a press conference would be held today to discuss the situation in more detail.
The ministry plans to move to a new performing arts and administrative complex on Norodom Boulevard. The center is under construction with help from the Japanese government.
In an interview earlier this year, Nouth Narang said he wanted to find a partner to turn the dilapidated Monivong headquarters into a public library.
But he acknowledged then that no partner had been found and that several private investors were interested in developing the site. (Additional reporting by Jeff Smith)