A proposed 27-story building that would tower over the US Embassy in Phnom Penh caused Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh to caution Prime Minister Hun Sen that the project could spark security concerns from the US, according to a January internal report from the Council for the Development of Cambodia.
JSM Indochina proposed constructing the 27-story mixed-use complex to cover 10,732 square meters in a lot one block south of the US Embassy at Wat Phnom.
According to a 2007 report published in British newspaper The Times, the $86-million project, titled the Embassy Center, is to comprise a mall anchored by Malaysian department store Parkson, a 600-space parking lot and 100 serviced apartments.
However, after the Council for the Development of Cambodia met to discuss the proposal in January, Mr Prasidh, who is also second deputy chairman of the CDC, wrote a report to Prime Minister Hun Sen explaining that the project might cause the embassy some concern.
“Because of the location of this investment project next to the US Embassy, and because the building is so high at 27 stories, this could be an object of protest over security reasons from the US Embassy, and safety concerns from foreign embassies are a burden of our royal government,” the report reads.
It goes on to recommend that the CDC solicit “an advanced opinion” from the US Embassy and schedule another meeting on the issue.
JSM Indochina referred all questions to their attorneys at Phnom Penh law firm DFDL Mekong. Martin Desautels, a partner at DFDL, declined to comment yesterday on behalf of his client. According to the Ho Chi Minh City-based company’s website, JSM is currently in the process of obtaining construction permits for the development.
US Embassy spokesman John Johnson declined to comment last week on whether the embassy had expressed security concerns about the proposed building development to the Cambodian government.
“Factors such as future development are always taken into consideration when our facilities are constructed worldwide, and appropriate measures are taken to ensure their security,” he wrote in an e-mail on Sept 9. “Beyond that we do not comment on issues dealing with security,” he said.
Security was a top concern in the design of Phnom Penh’s US Embassy, which was completed in 2005. The “flagship” complex was the first US embassy built with new security standards established after the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the US.
Currently the JSM site and the embassy are separated by a restricted street blocked off by embassy barrier gates. Construction has not yet started on the JSM site.
On Sept 10, JSM Indochina announced its intentions to list on the London Stock Exchange’s main market. According to the company’s website, it is also finalizing the design of a large hotel on a swath of land opposite Wat Ounalom on Sisowath Quay where the municipal department of tourism was once located. The project—called JSM Ounalom—is to have more than 220 hotel rooms and 1,575 square meters of retail space, according to the firm’s website.
The company is also designing a proposed mixed development on 31,041 square meters of land located near the Raffles Grand Hotel d´Angkor in Siem Reap, according to the JSM website.
(Additional reporting by Tim Sturrock)