The former Khmer Rouge stronghold of Pailin is building a four-floor city hall that will cost about $533,000 to construct and is scheduled to be finished in April, officials said Monday.
Chea Chan Dinh said Pailin Governor Y Chhien is currently personally paying the costs of construction and is waiting for money from the national government, which promised to pay half of the building costs.
Than Sina, secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior, confirmed on Monday the ministry has said it would pay some money for the city hall construction, but it was unclear when the funds would be given to Pailin.
Construction on city hall, which is being built on a 200-square-meter piece of land, started three months ago, Chea Chan Dinh said. “It is almost finished.”
The entire town of Pailin defected to the government in 1996 under the leadership of Y Chhien and former top Khmer Rouge leader Ieng Sary. In exchange for the defection—the first mass Khmer Rouge defection—the government granted Pailin semi-autonomous status.
Efforts to construct a new courthouse or obtain funding for improvement projects, however, have been hampered by the failure of Phnom Penh to process building applications, Pailin’s leaders have said in the past.
Ouk Chan, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Public Works, said he recently saw the construction of city hall and it was about 60 percent finished.
The Ministry of Construction designed the master plans for the city hall building and surveyed the site of the building, said Sun Soeun, director of cabinet for the ministry. But he said the ministry was not involved in the contracts for construction.
“We just controlled the general construction of the building and came out with a master plan,” Sun Soeun said. “We provided technical assistance to make sure the construction was perfect.”
Y Chhien has hired four Thai engineers to work on the project, along with 40 Cambodian construction workers.
Pailin is home to nine of the 12 former Khmer Rouge leaders scholars believed were most likely to be prosecuted if a UN tribunal were convened. Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan live there. Some have referred to the town as the “Khmer Rouge capital.”
Donors and NGOs have been funding programs to help Pailin convert to an efficient, democratic government. The Khmer Institute for Democracy and the Cambodian Institute for Human Rights has been giving human rights courses to teachers and other residents in the area.
Australian and Japanese NGOs also plan to build a courthouse but they are still waiting for Ministry of Interior approval of the applications for the plans and requests for an officially sanctioned judge.