Ministry to Take Over Site of Failed Land Swap

The Ministry of Interior will pay $5.8 million to complete a half-constructed building in Phnom Penh’s Chbar Ampov district—previously abandoned by the Ministry of Environment for being too far from the city center—where two new departments will be housed.

Interior Minister Sar Kheng said on Thursday that the general departments of immigration and department of identification, which were both created this year, are to be transferred to the 9,000-square-meter plot on National Road 1 in Chbar Ampov district.

Construction of offices on the site was halted soon after Environment Minister Say Sam Al’s appointment last September, when he canceled a land swap deal with the Ratana Cooperation and Construction company that was made under former Minister Mok Mareth.

The Ministry of Environment is now spending $8 million on building a new headquarters near Koh Pich on land personally donated by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The Chbar Ampov plot, which is about 10 km away from both ministries, was apparently returned to Ratana Cooperation and Construction after the aborted land swap. The company could not be reached on Thursday, and officials did not reveal which firm was involved in the current work.

Speaking during a meeting at the Ministry of Interior to discuss immigration and identification issues, Mr. Kheng said the contract had been agreed in principle and his ministry had put down an advance of $1 million.

“I have asked the general logistics team to keep an eye on technical issues to ensure the quality of the building,” he said. “Now they are working hard on the building.”

Mr. Kheng also said the ministry had taken charge of a small piece of land worth $1.3 million situated in front of Chaktomuk Primary School, off Norodom Boulevard, but did not provide any further details about what the building would be used for.

“The total price is $7.1 million for the land…. It is not expensive and it is appropriate,” he said. “We still owe in total $4.8 million and this is the burden of the Ministry of Economy and Finance.”

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak also confirmed the deal and said the ministry was liaising directly with the construction firm, not the Environment Ministry. “The company is to finish the building for persons to move [there] for working at the end of this year,” he said before declining to answer further questions.

It remains unclear what will happen to the current Ministry of Environment building on Sihanouk Boulevard, which was valued at between $9.6 million and $12 million in 2012.

(Additional reporting by Holly Robertson)

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