Sokimex Group Plans 15-Story Hotel Near Royal Palace

Local conglomerate Sokimex Group plans to construct a 15-story hotel as well as a supermarket and high-end shops on a more than 15,000-square-meter plot of land behind Phnom Penh’s Wat Ounalom, the firm’s founder, Sok Kong, said Thursday.

Mr. Kong said his company had applied for a loan of $40 million through a bank based in China to begin the project, but the bank suspended Sokimex’s request because of the current political situation in Cambodia following last month’s election.

A representative from Unesco in Cambodia on Thursday said a building of such height should not be allowed so close to the Royal Palace and that Unesco would be visiting the site over the weekend.

Still, Mr. Kong assured the project would begin as soon as the loan is approved and a new government is in place.

“We will start building this project after receiving the loan from the bank. The bank now suspended the loan because the situation [following the election] is bad,” Mr. Kong said, declining to name the Chinese bank.

Mr. Kong said the hotel and shops would sit on about 10,000 square meters of the land, which was once the site of the T3 prison, and that Sokimex planned to sell the remaining 5,000 square meters, which was the former location of the Phnom Penh police headquarters, to a Japanese company.

“A Japanese company recently came to look at this land and aims to buy it. But the company has not yet confirmed the purchase after I gave them a fixed price of $3,500 per square meter,” he said, declining to name the company.

Mr. Kong said he did not know what the Japanese company has planned.

The prime plot of land sits two blocks from the Royal Palace and spans large sections of streets 13 and 154 in downtown Phnom Penh.

Up until last week, the location was filled with four bustling barbecue restaurants, two clubs, a beer garden, a parking lot and a bus station.

On Wednesday, all that was left of the barbecue restaurants was twisted metal and chunks of concrete, and the beer garden, bus station and one of the clubs had already been closed.

Mr. Kong’s personal secretary, Seng Chanthou, confirmed on Wednesday that Sokimex had given orders to those businesses to vacate the property, and the remaining open businesses said they had until November or December to leave.

The prospect of such a tall building has created concerns due it its close proximity to the Royal Palace.

Roeung Phallin, Chey Chumneah commune chief, said there is a restriction that means no building can be taller than the palace.

“I think that if a hotel with 15 floors will be built [there]…it is definitely affected as this location is in the banned area,” she said.

Anne Lemaistre, country representative of Unesco, said it was inappropriate to build anything over the height of the palace.

“Phnom Penh should keep its historical urban landscape around the Royal Palace because they are destroying the vision and image of the city by accepting the fast growth of high- and middle-size buildings popping up everywhere,” Ms. Lemaistre said.

“Around the Royal Palace, no one should be authorized to go above the peak of the palace. It is a matter of respect,” she added.

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