Hun Sen Tells King Buddhist Institute’s Land Not for Sale

Government denials over the rumored development of the Buddhist Institute have reached the highest levels, with the prime minister penning a letter to the king to assure him the land is not for sale.

In a letter addressed to King Norodom Sihamoni dated October 6 and obtained Friday, Mr. Hun Sen blames “incitement by uneducated people” for the swirling rumors that the institute—which is being hemmed in on all sides by NagaWorld’s growing casino empire—would be sold or rented to NagaCorp.

Mr. Hun Sen said he was responding to a letter sent to him by the king on October 3 seeking answers about the alleged sale of the institute. Palace officials could not be reached for comment.

A group of activist monks has been protesting for months over their suspicions that the site had been sold or swapped to NagaWorld.

In May, the institute’s front gate was demolished to accommodate underground construction and, more recently, a private firm laid a 30-by-100-meter concrete slab in the middle of the institute compound, fueling fears that the land had been sold.

In his letter to King Sihamoni, Mr. Hun Sen reiterated previous public denials by the Ministry of Cults and Religions and added that the government planned to invest in the site.

“The Ministry of Cults and Religions has already raised for the three-year plan, 2015 to 2017, the amount of $4.6 million to construct a four or five story building in the compound of Buddhist Institute,” he wrote.

On Thursday, Cults and Religions Minister Min Khin appeared before a National Assembly commission on religious affairs to answer questions about the rumors that the site would be sold. He said NagaCorp had been given permission to build a temporary structure on Buddhist Institute land to store materials free of charge.

Opposition CNRP lawmaker Yem Ponhearith, the head of the commission, said he had seen the letter from the prime minister and welcomed its contents.

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