US Embassy Unveils New Site

The US Embassy held a ground­breaking ceremony on Wednesday to unveil the site of the new $50 million “flagship” embassy building in Phnom Penh—an embassy complex which will meet post-Sept 11 se­curity standards.

“The new embassy will be a very safe and secure facility for the Americans and the Cambo­dians who work inside,” said US Charge d’Affairs Alex Arvizu on Wednesday. “The world has changed. We have no choice but to do this.”

Construction for the new 2.6- hectare embassy, located on the site of the former International Youth Club near Wat Phnom, will begin in early 2003 and is expected to be completed in late 2005.

Khmer Rouge officials report­ed­ly executed members of the Lon Nol regime near the tennis courts of the International Youth Club, then known as the Cercle Spor­tif, when they overtook Phnom Penh in April 1975, ac­cording to US journalist and au­thor Elizabeth Becker.

Such claims, though, have ne­ver been verified, according to another US journalist and author, Henry Kamm.

The new embassy will have state-of-the-art security system as well as a housing facility for a de­tachment of US Marines, who will serve as a security force for the complex, said Charles Will­iams, the director and chief operating officer of the US State De­partment’s Overseas Building Operations.

The new embassy will be “a flagship project for a new generation” of US embassies around the world,” Williams said.

Speaking to reporters after the ceremony, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said the government is “still ready to negotiate with the UN” for a UN-assisted Khmer Rouge trial.

Hor Namhong also said that UN Secretary-General Kofi An­nan told him during a recent visit to UN headquarters in New York that Annan is waiting for a UN mandate before continuing negotiations with Cambodia on the stalled Khmer Rouge trials talks.

“We still want to try the Khmer Rouge with a fair trial, with the international norm,” Hor Nam­hong said.

 

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