A familiar figure has popped up atop a building that authorities in Phnom Penh ordered demolished in October for violating height restrictions around the Royal Palace: a statue of late King Father Norodom Sihanouk.
“I have built a King statue on the top of my building because I love the King and respect my King,” said Sin Kim Heng, the owner of the future hotel located off Street 19z behind the Royal University of Fine Arts.
The statue features the King Father dressed in a suit and tie, standing with his right arm raised and smiling. It peers out from the northern ledge of the 34.5-meter building, which towers over all other structures within a five-block radius.
Mr. Kim Heng acknowledged last year that he chose to construct the building 10 meters taller than the 24.5 meters allowed in his contract with Phnom Penh’s land management department. He made the decision, he said, after Prime Minister Hun Sen publicly lifted a ban on buildings higher than 14 meters in the area around the Royal Palace.
City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said Monday that a commission has been established by the Phnom Penh municipality to deal with the issue of tall buildings near the Royal Palace.
Another tall building ordered demolished last year is located on Sisowath Quay and owned by Vattanac Properties. It was permitted to build 14 meters in height, but it had already surpassed 20 meters when construction was halted in October.
“We will cooperate with the Royal Palace and ask them to look from inside [the palace], and if any buildings are still higher than the palace, then we will ask the building owners to reduce them,” Mr. Dimanche said.
“I do not know about the destruction of the King statue on top of the tall building because this is a decision of the Royal Palace,” he added. “The Royal Palace is able to make a report to the [municipal] governor to ask for action to be taken if they think the King is not allowed to stay on top of the building.”
Prince Sisowath Thomico, a longtime secretary to the King Father, said that the last year’s orders should be carried out but the statue preserved.
“We should keep the King statue because it was already built, but the government should destroy some parts of the building higher than the Royal Palace,” he said.