The controversial expansion of NagaWorld casino in Phnom Penh has been temporarily halted after an inspection of the construction site led Prime Minister Hun Sen to judge that it was interfering with the city’s beauty, according to City Hall.
For more than a year, cranes and scaffolding have crowded the corner of National Assembly Street and Suramarit Boulevard as NagaWorld began to construct an underground parking lot for the casino, but on Friday laborers had begun to pull all of that apart.
“The Ministry of Land Management has issued a letter ordering the postponement of the construction and the removal of the materials, so the company’s workers should start today to clear the roof in front of the Buddhist Institute,” reads a statement released Thursday by Phnom Penh governor Pa Socheatvong.
The governor said the decision was made at a meeting convened Thursday evening between City Hall and Land Management Minister Im Chhun Lim.
“The meeting discussed how the NagaWorld construction had affected the beauty of the municipality,” Mr. Socheatvong wrote.
Last year, a group of activist monks protested against the construction, which has hemmed in the Buddhist Institute and led its arched entranceway to be torn down. After facing questions about the project from opposition lawmakers and even the king, Prime Minister Hun Sen wrote in a letter to the monarch that the institute would not be sold or swapped.
City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said the prime minister had himself paid a visit to the area on Thursday morning and called for the construction to be suspended.
“We decided to postpone because Samdech Hun Sen went to check directly, and he believed it had a negative impact on the capital and the public,” Mr. Dimanche said.
“The construction is more than 3,000 square meters, so the Land Management Ministry, which gave the permission, has to understand the impact,” he added.
“After they remove the construction materials we will discuss what to do next.”
Land Management officials and NagaWorld representatives could not be reached for comment