Plans to relocate about 20 Preah Sihanouk provincial government buildings away from the Sihanoukville coast in a land swap with a private company came to a sudden halt last week, officials said on Thursday.
Nearly all government offices were to be moved to a compound about 2.5 km from their current location under the proposed deal with businessman Norng Savuth’s Piphup Asia Trading company, deputy provincial governor Phay Bun Vannak said earlier this month.
According to provincial governor Yun Min, however, the plan has since been shot down. Interior Minister Sar Kheng “has announced there will be no swap,” he said. “His announcement was in a message to the company, so we will not continue discussing it.”
“It was the company who wanted the development. We were just following an operation pursued by higher levels,” he added before declining to comment further.
Deputy governor Chhin Seng Nguon said the plan was still being considered by provincial authorities when word came to abort the plans.
The proposal would have been sent to the Interior Ministry or Council of Ministers for processing.
The provincial government had no position on the decision, as it had “no right to decide” such matters, he added.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak confirmed that the swap had been aborted, but declined to elaborate.
Similar land swaps in exchange for new government buildings in unpopulated areas have been favored by the CPP in the past, with a similar Siem Reap swap in 2010 pushing offices 16 km out of the city center before they were eventually relocated back there.
However, Prime Minister Hun Sen has repeatedly criticized such maneuvers.
Private companies frequently get more valuable land in better locations in the exchanges.
In Preah Sihanouk’s aborted plan, the provincial education and health departments, the Cambodian Red Cross and National Election Committee were the only offices that would not have relocated, officials had said.