Culture and Fine Arts Minister Prince Sisowath Panara Sirivuddh confirmed Tuesday that the land around the Bassac Theater has been handed over to Kith Meng, chairman of Cambodian Television Network and Mobitel, in exchange for renovating the theater for an estimated $10 million.
Prince Panara Sirivuddh also confirmed that the Mong Reththy Group will build a new arts campus on a 4-hectare plot of land in Tuol Kok district, in exchange for the Royal University of Fine Arts’ main campus, located near Old Stadium.
Kith Meng’s proposal to renovate the national theater and build a training center for the performing arts was accepted under two conditions: The theater retain its original name and that it be rebuilt to appear as it did in the 1960s, Prince Panara Sirivuddh said.
In return, he said, Kith Meng will get an undisclosed amount of land around the theater to build a conference center and office buildings.
Kith Meng refused to comment Tuesday.
In January, King Norodom Sihamoni had expressed his intention to take on the restoration of the theater, built by his father, retired King Norodom Sihanouk, according to the International Herald Tribune.
King Sihamoni at the time reportedly estimated the project would cost $30 million.
The 3.17 hectares of the RUFA main campus, meanwhile, will be handed over to the Mong Reththy Group. The university’s smaller campus behind the National Museum will be retained by the Ministry of Culture, Prince Panara Sirivuddh said.
The ministry intends to expand the museum onto that land, he said.
The current university buildings—the smaller one was built in 1918, and the main campus was built in the 1960s—are falling apart and rampant with crime, he said.
“I would like to create a university like in Europe,” he said.
He said he did not know how much the new university would cost.
Mong Reththy confirmed Tuesday his company’s plans to build a new university in Tuol Kok for more than 1,000 students.
“The ministry was asking me for help,” he said, adding the final details will be worked out over the next few days.
He would not reveal the cost of the new university or what will be built on the old campus’ grounds.
Prince Panara Sirivuddh said he lobbied the international community for years to provide funds for the two projects but never received any real takers.
“We had promises from everywhere,” he said. “But nobody was serious.”
At the university, Rector Tuy Koeun said he didn’t mind changing locations if it meant moving into a new campus.
“The current university is very old and decayed,” he said.
At the theater, Chief of Administration Buth Chhoeun said he would love to see the theater returned to its former glory but worried about the impact the renovations would have on the original architecture.
“I’m a little concerned the building will not be Khmer,” he said. “But we are happy if we have a place to perform.”