The capital’s newest riverfront restaurant is also the latest step in the Phnom Penh Municipality’s creatively-financed campaign to clean up the city and draw in more tourists, municipal officials said.
“Pavilion River 3” along the Tonle Sap River is one of 15 small huts with ornate Khmer-style roofs that the city is leasing to various contractors in exchange for the area’s upkeep.
“Vendors and their customers were messing up the area, throwing garbage on the riverbank and in the park,” Phnom Penh First Deputy Governor Chea Sophara said.
“Now the contractors are responsible for cleaning up the area. They also pay electricity and water in addition to a monthly lease. This is good for the municipality.”
Employees at Pavilion River 3 are taking the mission seriously. The owner, who would only identify himself as Roger, plans to install four garbage bins around the new restaurant.
He also plans to open five more eateries in coming months in the other pavilions along the riverfront area.
Phnom Penh’s latest beautification effort has had several incarnations.
The city originally contracted with King Fortune International to build the 15 pavilions in front of the Royal Palace to become gift shops and eateries in time for last year’s Water Festival.
However, King Norodom Sihanouk nixed such a plan and ordered the pavilions removed—along with a public restroom built by the former first prime minister Ung Huot.
Nine of the buildings were moved to the park near Wat Botum and six others were rebuilt in the riverfront park, Chea Sophara said.
King Fortune paid nearly $67,000 to build the pavilions and $18,000 more to move them, said Tiv Kim Piseth, deputy chief cabinet of Phnom Penh. In exchange, the city signed a contract that allows King Fortune to pay a only minimal rent to the municipality for the pavilions.
According to the Oct 31 contract between the two parties, the company can sub-lease the stalls to a third party.
Chea Sophara has run several beautification projects around the city and has repeatedly said he uses such self-financing deals to help pay for them.
In early November, the city imposed a new policy to beautify the riverfront area, ordering street vendors not to do business along the rivers.
Pavilion River 3 is one of the few riverfront dining locations on Sisowath Quay where items on the menu are all priced in riel and at lower prices than other establishments. A draft beer, for example, costs 3,300 riel.
The goal of such a strategy: to create an attractive, high-quality place where Khmers feel at home, the owner said.
(Additional reporting by Phann Ana and Mhari Saito)