Future of Riverside Fairgrounds Still Unclear

Thousands used to flock there every weekend but, on Monday, all that was left of the Hun Sen Park Fairgrounds was a small section of a skating rink standing forlornly amid the rubble of what had been.

Around 360 businesses operated inside the complex, including a gym, funfair, ping-pong tables, a Fer­ris wheel and other rides. Some of those businesses have been operating on roads around the site since demolition began early this month.

Workmen are still clearing the 2-hectare site opposite Naga Casino that served as fairgrounds for seven years. But owner Teng Bunma’s plans for the land—estimated by Asia Real Property Co Ltd to be worth $36 million—are still unclear.

Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Pa Socheatvong and Chea So­pha­ra, secretary of state for the Min­is­try of Land Management, confirmed the land in question was owned by Teng Bunma’s Thai Boon Rong Group.

“I heard [Thai Boon Rong Group] wants to develop the area for a hotel, but no proposal has been submitted to the municipality yet,” Pa Socheatvong said. The group acquired the land by filling in a marshy area of the riverbank “long ago,” he added.

“We appeal to the government to rebuild [Hun Sen Park Fair­grounds] like it was,” said Chhorn Srey Neang, 26, a former clothes vendor in the complex. “It was some­where that could be accessed by rich and poor to shop while the children played,” she said.

Chhorn Srey Neang said vendors were told at the end of May that their annual lease would not be renewed.

“My profits have been badly hit,” said nearby CD vendor Chanseng Phalkun, 38, who added that he had rented space inside the complex for $190 per month and had no idea if the fair might reopen elsewhere.

At the former T-3 Prison site, which is owned by Sok Kong, president of Sokimex Co Ltd, lays an un­tidy pile of fairground ride parts—spaceman shaped seats, a fish mer­ry-go-round, battery-car bump­ers and duck-shaped baskets.

Mai Phan Thi Phung, who ran amusement rides at the fairgrounds, said she intended to re­start her business at the T-3 site in September. “They have promised me that I can run it from here,” she said.

However Sok Kong said he was not aware that any such permission had been given. “Really? I didn’t know about that,” he said when told about a funfair on his land.

Some who spent time at the fairgrounds already miss it.

“I liked to skate there,” said Heng Udom, 13. “Now I just drive around the city [on motorbikes] with my friends instead.”

“I often went there with my family. I hope they will rebuild it,” said Phal Kun, 15.

“It was one of very few resources for young people in the center of the city,” said Drew McDowell, director of the Aziza Schoolhouse, who often took youngsters from his project to the fair.

The city could refer requests to the company to reserve space for a playground, Pa Socheatvong said, “but it is absolutely the right of the landowner to decide.”

Teng Bunma and Ung Chhay Srun, who managed the complex for the company, could not be contacted Tuesday. The Thai Boon Rong Group had not responded to a re­quest for information on plans for the site by Tuesday evening.



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