Prison Site Faces Hazy Future

Smoke is giving Sok Kong a headache, but not quite the way you might think.

Sok Kong, the director of the Sokimex petroleum company, had big plans to build a hospital on the site of the former T3 prison, the notorious French colonial landmark that survived more than a century in central Phnom Penh before being knocked down recently.

The company was so eager to obtain the site that it agreed to spend about $2 million to build a new prison 20 km southwest of the city to replace T3.

But Sok Kong said Thursday that fumes from a nearby crematorium at Wat Ounalom are casting a pall over his hospital plans.

While the psychological message might not be the best, he said a bigger worry is that the smoke could possibly make patients sicker. Or, if the smoke doesn’t get to them, the noise of funeral ceremonies or the fear of ghosts might, he said.

The site also seems wrong for markets or restaurants, he said, as people may not want their food smoked in quite that manner. A hotel or guest house is a possibility—but how could they promise smoke-free rooms?

The whole thing makes his head hurt, he said.

Penh Sakhoeun, who heads the bureau of planning and urbanization at the Municipality Urban­ization Department, said whatever Sokimex builds, it can’t be a skyscraper.

“The height of the buildings in that area cannot be higher than 12 meters tall,’’ he said, because he said it has been designated a historic district. He suggested that Sokimex consider a tourism center.


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