The Labor Ministry building in Phnom Penh has been “swapped” to a private investor, and hundreds of civil servants have vacated and moved to a new compound on Russian Boulevard, though several government officials on Tuesday declined to provide details about the deal, who now owns the building or how much was paid for the prime property.
At the former Labor Ministry building behind the Royal Palace on Street 184 on Tuesday, a security guard was seen guarding the now privately-owned property, newly surrounded by a green fence.
Minister of Labor Vong Sauth said Tuesday that the building had been “swapped,” adding that his civil servants are enjoying working at their new offices.
Mr Sauth claimed that the Finance Ministry had made the swap in a transparent way, but he declined to provide details.
“We did the swap…and I moved my directorate to the [new] Labor Ministry,” Mr Sauth said. “The reason is to have [staff] working at one Ministry,” he said. “We could not do anything stupid-—it is a state property,” he said without elaborating.
Mr Sauth said that he didn’t know who now owned the spacious, colonial-era building on Street 184 or how much money was exchanged for the prime piece of real estate.
“I don’t need to know about the price, I just need a place to work,” he said before hanging up his phone.
Chuop Narith, a deputy director of the ministry’s employment and manpower department, said Tuesday that the building had been vacated since January. Mr Narith said that he had no further details about the swap.
Finance Ministry Secretary of State Ouk Rabun, who is in charge of cataloging state property, declined to comment on the swap.
Hang Chuon Naron, secretary general for the ministry, could not be reached for comment.
SRP Secretary-General Ke Sovannroth said Tuesday that the government had not informed lawmakers of any swaps involving state properties.
“We are the representatives of the people; we don’t know how much revenue the government received from the sales,” Mrs Sovannroth said.
“When the National Assembly members don’t know, how could [citizens] know about it?”