S’pore Firm Seeks Help in Ship Dispute

A Singaporean firm that owns the ship on which Phnom Penh’s Naga Casino is based has asked Cambodia’s Supreme Council of Magistracy for help in getting its vessel back in what has become a year-old contract dispute.

Unicentral Corporation Pte Ltd says Singapore’s Supreme Court ordered the Malaysian operator, Punca Rahmat, to return the ship and pay more than $4 million in damages. Lawyers for Unicentral say the contract leasing the boat to the Malaysian company ex­pired Jan 1, 2002, and the firm stopped paying in November 2001.

But Phnom Penh Municipal Court has interfered in the decision, company officials claimed Monday, issuing a decision Aug 29 rejecting the Singaporean court order, Unicentral Country Representative Liao Khoo Ngain said at a news conference in Phnom Penh Monday.

“We were surprised to find an in­junction can be issued and overturned in the same week. We still have faith in the Cambodian justice system,” Liao said.

Unicentral filed a complaint with the Supreme Council of Mag­istracy Friday, asking it to in­vestigate the reversal and the Ma­laysian firm leasing the ship, attorney David Chanaiwa said.

The ship, the Singapore Heri­tage, is moored on the Tonle Bas­sac and is sub-leased by the Naga Casino. Naga is not directly in­volved in the dispute, since it is a third party that sub-leases the ship from Punca Rahmat, Liao said Monday.

Casino attorney Long Dara said the Singaporeans don’t have a valid case because Cambodian law still must apply on Cambo­dian soil. “Even though the contract was made in Singapore, the business activity was in Cambo­dia,” the lawyer said, though Cha­naiwa explained that the original contract between Unicentral and Punca Ruhmat specified that a Singaporean court had to mediate any disputes.

The ship is worth $15 million, Liao said. But as the casino continues to operate, the price of damages and back pay probably will increase, he added.

(Ad­di­tional reporting by Kay Kimsong)


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