The Council of Ministers has ordered the Interior Ministry to find alternative land for property developer Phanimex in return for the private firm relinquishing claim to a plot of land located in the same city block as the Royal Palace, Phanimex’s director Suy Sophan said Monday.
Phanimex acquired the property, which houses the logistics department of the Interior Ministry and which royal family members consider palace land, from the ministry in a controversial 2005 land swap.
“There is now a directive ordering the Interior Ministry to find [new land] as a replacement for me,” Suy Sophan said Monday.
“If the Interior Ministry finds a replacement for me, I would not mind anything,” she said.
Suy Sophan said she did not know why the Council of Ministers was offering her alternative land for her plot adjoining the palace.
In exchange for giving Phanimex the site in the southwestern corner of the palace block, Suy Sophan agreed at the time to build a new Interior Ministry logistics department and a police training school.
Construction of both buildings was completed around three months ago, she said.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said that he was unaware of the Council of Ministers’ directive and Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith referred questions on the matter to the cabinet.
Council of Ministers spokesman Seng Savorn said he had no knowledge of the case.
The 14,170-square-meter property previously housed the Royal Palace guards and served as the palace’s logistics department prior to when the Vietnamese-backed government took over the land in 1979, according to palace officials.
Prince Sisowath Thomico, the adoptive son of retired King Norodom Sihanouk, said he could not speculate as to the reasons behind the possible return of the property to the Interior Ministry, but recalled his passionate feelings about the controversial deal with Phanimex.
“In 2005, I voiced a strong opinion against that kind of land-swapping,” he said. “The land belongs to the Royal Palace and…I didn’t know why it had been handed over,” he said.
Government officials, Prince Thomico said, told him in 2005 that the land was not palace property and belonged to the Interior Ministry because the Vietnamese had used it to store weapons during the 1980s.
“I was not satisfied with this answer because they should consider the heritage of the monarchy over the heritage of the Vietnamese occupation,” he said.
“Sooner or later the Ministry of Interior will give the land back to the Royal Palace,” Prince Thomico added.
“It is a first step to being given back to the palace.”