For the second time this month, government officials Monday attempted to inspect Phnom Penh’s Renakse Hotel, following claims by the hotel’s owners, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, that the historic building is on the verge of collapse.
Daun Penh District Governor Sok Sambath said he and a team of Municipal Department of Land Management and Construction officials—accompanied by 18 police officers—visited the hotel on the order of municipality Governor Kep Chuktema.
The Renakse’s longtime manager, Kem Chantha, who is fighting an eviction order issued by the CPP earlier this year, argued against Monday’s inspection, claiming that she had the support of CPP President Chea Sim to retain control of the hotel.
Arguing alongside Kem Chantha in what briefly became a heated shouting match was a woman who declined to identify herself, but whom others present at the hotel claimed was a sister of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
The unidentified woman, whom Kem Chantha later denied was related to the prime minister, told the inspectors that the CPP was on a mission to find a reason to evict Kem Chantha, who has a long-term lease on the French colonial-era building.
“They brought many police here to my hotel to inspect…but did not tell me about the plan to inspect the hotel,” Kem Chantha said after the confrontation, which took place in the hotel lobby amid guests going to and from their rooms.
“I was very surprised, but they cannot remove me that way because I am not wrong,” she said.
Before meeting with Kem Chantha, the four land management officials walked around the outside of the hotel, taking pictures of cracked steps and peeling paint as part of their inspection.
Afterward, Sok Sambath said he did not know when the results of the inspection would be made available.
“We will report this inspection to the municipality, and I do not know when this result will come out,” he said. “I could not survey all of this building yet,” he added.
Minister of Cults and Religion Min Khin, who is representing the CPP in the hotel dispute, said the building, which is about a century old, is dangerous.
“I asked the municipality to inspect the Renakse Hotel building because I am concerned and it might fall down at any time,” Min Khin said via telephone.
The hotel dispute erupted in September when it was revealed that the CPP had sold the Renakse site to a private firm for $3.8 million, despite Kem Chantha holding a 48-year lease to the site.
Min Kinh has offered Kem Chantha $200,000 in compensation for cutting the lease short, but she has fought the eviction, saying it is illegal.