The ruling CPP and the Royal Palace need to intervene and prevent the destruction of Phnom Penh’s historic Renakse Hotel, SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua said in a letter addressed to CPP President Chea Sim earlier this month.
In a phone interview Tuesday, Mu Sochua said she sent the letter in an effort to “guarantee preservation” of the French colonial era building, which she said serves as a monument to Cambodia’s urban culture.
“I have only one concern here, which is preserving the few remaining monuments that are part of our culture in the city of Phnom Penh,” she said. “We have lost so much of our soul already because we have not been preserving these types of sites.”
Mu Sochua said she sent the letter last week to National Assembly President Heng Samrin to be forwarded to Chea Sim. She said Heng Samrin returned the letter to her, indicating he had signed off on it. Reached by phone Wednesday, Koam Kosal, Heng Samrin’s cabinet chief, said he did not know about the letter and could not comment.
Mu Sochua also said the Royal Palace had stayed quiet for too long on the issue and should pressure the CPP to prevent the building’s demise.
“The Palace really should be the one to intervene in the first place, and ask the CPP not to destroy the building—especially when [Cabinet Minister] Sok An himself has given speeches about the importance of preserving heritage sites,” she said.
Sok An, speaking at a 2006 Unesco forum on preserving urban heritage in Phnom Penh, said Cambodia should avoid mistakes made by neighboring countries, which, he said, had destroyed cultural heritage sites only to regret the decision later and realize it was “too late.”
Also Thursday, an assistant to Unesco Country Representative Teruo Jinnai said that his office had not yet received a response to a letter written earlier this month regarding the future of the hotel.
In a letter sent to Sok An, Religion Minister Min Khin and members of the Royal Cabinet, Teruo Jinnai reminded the officials of a 2006 Unesco summit, at which they had participated, and urged them to protect the building, which the CPP says is on the verge of collapse, though many others beg to differ.
Reached by phone Thursday, Min Khin said he was too busy to discuss the Unesco letter.
Royal Cabinet member Oum Daravuth said he was out of the country and could not comment on either the Unesco letter or Mu Sochua’s comments.
(Additional reporting by Eang Mengleng)