Nine Norton University students held a news conference on Thursday at which they called on Prime Minister Hun Sen to halt a government land swap that has led to the closure of facilities at the Banana Center near Wat Phnom.
The students claimed that ongoing construction work by the Phanimex company has blocked access to a Banana Center laboratory where students conduct practical training sessions.
The Banana Center and Norton University are sister institutions owned by Chan Sok Khieng.
Property developer Phanimex is building a new national radio station on the site of the Banana Center in return for being granted ownership of the site of the old national radio station nearby.
The planned closure of the Banana Center is being opposed by students and the school’s owner.
“We are asking the Prime Minister, Hun Sen, and Bun Rany to help reach a compromise,” said Yi Vutha, a fourth year student.
“Please help us because we want an education,” he said, adding that Phanimex’s pile drivers were also making it impossible for students to concentrate.
The students claimed to represent the four faculties of the Norton University: electricity, construction, information technology and electronics.
Chan Sok Khieng accused the Information Ministry of avoiding negotiation over the dispute site.
In 1999, then-information minister Lu Laysreng signed a 15-year lease contract with Chan Sok Khieng for the Banana school site. That contract was voided by current Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith, who agreed to the Phanimex deal to build a new radio station.
Khieu Kanharith on Thursday denied delaying talks on the future of Banana and accused Chan Sok Khieng of being arrogant toward civil servants.
He added that he had been prepared to offer $200,000 to Chan Sok Khieng to move the Banana Center, but the businessman had now “burnt the bridge.”
“For one year he did not reply to the ministry. He was looking down,” Khieu Kanharith said, adding that he would sue Chan Sok Khieng if he incited any of his students to protest.