Dozens of business owners occupying more than 8,000 square meters of prime real estate behind Phnom Penh’s Wat Ounalom have been ordered to vacate their premises by the local conglomerate Sokimex Group, an official from the firm said Wednesday.
Though the firm declined to say what plans are in store for the land—which sits just two blocks away from the Royal Palace—residents said Wednesday a team of workers had entered the area last week to dismantle a strip of popular barbecue restaurants on Street 13. Other businesses including a nightclub, a restaurant and a bus company have already been shuttered.
Seng Chanthou, personal secretary to Sok Kong, the founder of Sokimex Group, confirmed that businesses in the area had been told to move out by the firm.
“Mr. [Kong] allowed me to tell you that we just informed all business people to leave the…land, but we have no plan yet with the land because we are now busy with the construction of a new hotel [in Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changva commune],” said Mr. Chanthou.
Chey Chumneah commune chief Roeung Phallin also confirmed that the land belonged to Sokimex Group, though she said she was not aware of what the company planned to build in the area.
“The land belongs to Okhna Sok Kong. They were recently ordered to move after their five year leases ran out,” she said. “I do not know what the land owner plans to do,” she added.
The real estate in question measures more than 8,000 square meters and is worth approximately $3,000 per square meter.
The land is situated on the former site of the T3 prison across from Wat Ounalom and runs alongside streets 13 and 154. Prior to the businesses leaving, the area was a bustling zone in downtown Phnom Penh filled with barbecue restaurants.
Street vendors said Wednesday the restaurants on the land were manually demolished during an afternoon late last week by a team of construction workers.
“It started at about 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. About four to five workers destroyed the buildings, and they used about three to four workers to remove the roofs,” said Lay Heng, 50, who sells shoes opposite the site.
The Golden Boss City nightclub, which is located on the land, has already shut down, though the Golden Star Bar, another nightclub, is still open. However, its manager said Wednesday he was not sure how long that would last.
“I think they will destroy this club also, but we are under contract,” said Chin Vannak, 47, adding that the club had been there for about six years.
Te Yart, an attendant at a parking lot on the land, said the lot had to be vacated by the end of the year.
“We were just informed about a week ago. We were told to prepare to leave by November or December,” he said.
Kim Sok Roat, the parking lot’s owner, said he had rented the space for five years and was told about a month ago he had to leave.
“The company informed me to [leave], and now I am waiting to receive new information about what the landowner plans to do,” he said.
Sokimex Group has a large business portfolio in Cambodia including a nationwide chain of gas stations, several upscale hotels and the Thansur Bokor Highland resort in Kampot province. The firm possesses the concession to operate ticketing at the Angkor Archeological Park.