The Ministry of Environment broke ground Monday on its new location on a piece of land near Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich island after the environment minister called off a land swap that had been shrouded in secrecy.
About 200 officials attended the ceremony in Chaktomuk commune, where Sao Sopheap, cabinet chief to Environment Minister Say Sam Al, said that Prime Minister Hun Sen personally provided the new site.
“We planned a budget of $8 million to construct a new building,” Mr. Sopheap said. “We will name it Techo Heritage to thank Samdech Hun Sen because he offered the valued land to the Ministry of Environment.”
Afterwards, Mr. Sopheap said the ministry’s new location was part of another, new swap. But he declined to say whether Daun Penh Construction, which is in charge of constructing the new building, would take over the ministry’s old land.
“We already swapped the old ministry’s location and we will provide it to the new owner after the construction of our new location is completed,” said Mr. Sopheap, who also declined to say who would foot the $8 million construction bill.
Chuon Vichet Seila, deputy director-general of Daun Penh Construction, said the building would be completed within a year and a half.
Soon after his appointment in September, Mr. Sam Al, the son of CPP Secretary-General Say Chhum, quashed a land swap deal with the Ratana Cooperation Company that was made under former Environment Minister Mok Mareth.
That deal saw the Ratana Co. begin construction of a new ministry building in Meanchey district, on a plot of land 20 km away from the ministry’s former location along Sihanouk Boulevard.
Ratana Co. owner Ean Elen said her company now owned only the Meanchey location, where a half-constructed building currently stands.
“The Ministry of Environment asked to get a land swap with my company but they changed their minds later,” she said. “It is not involved with the Ministry of Environment anymore and now the land swap is over.”
Former Ratana Co. engineer Sok Khoeun said Monday that the company had nearly gone bankrupt after the canceled land swap deal.
“All the engineers and workers left the company because there’s no money to continue,” he said.