National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh appealed to the government Wednesday to move the Naga casino out of Phnom Penh, saying its existence is illegal and harmful to the image of the city.
“The relocation should be made as soon as possible,” he said in an interview outside the National Assembly. He criticized the government for not enforcing its ban of casinos within 200 km of Phnom Penh, and said the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Tourism disagree over which is responsible for getting the casino moved.
Malaysian-based Ariston Sdn Bhd has announced plans to move its existing floating casino to a parcel of land 500 meters away and build a $100 million resort complex.
Ranariddh is widely credited with supporting the original Ariston deal in 1994 during his tenure as first prime minister.
The topic came up as the National Assembly considers a different type of foreign business deal, whether to cover any financial losses a Chinese builder might face on the $26 million Kirirom Dam hydroelectric project.
The Prince defended the government plan, saying it was important to give the Chinese Electric Power Technology Import & Export Corporation a guarantee so the company can go to Chinese banks for loans.
“Some companies need [guarantees], and others don’t,” he said, citing Ariston as a company large enough that it didn’t need any such legislative guarantees for its building projects.
He pointed out that the Constitution calls for legislative approval of any measure making financial promises. Ith Prang, secretary of state for the Ministry of Industry, said it was important that the national budget include funds to pay for any CETIC losses if the measure is approved.
The National Assembly will meet again on Monday to discuss the Kirirom deal.
In other action, the legislators elected CPP lawmaker Sam Chen to replace the late Vann Sun Heng, who died Oct 20 of a heart attack, as a member of the culture and tourism commission.