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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Borei Keila tycoon faces setback

Traffic passes a shut-down construction site in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kork district
Traffic passes a shut-down construction site in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kork district yesterday where authorities detained construction workers on Sunday after the construction was deemed unauthorised. Vireak Mai

Borei Keila tycoon faces setback

Businesswoman Suy Sophan – who is usually subjected to angry demands for her to finish building flats she owes Borei Keila evictees – has this time been ordered to cease building on a site elsewhere in the capital.

Authorities on Sunday briefly detained four construction workers from Sophan’s Phan Imex company and shut down their unauthorised building site in Tuol Kork district, Pang Lida, district deputy governor, said.

“We asked them whether they knew they did not have permission to carry out this construction project here,” he said. “They answered that they did not know. We just educated them, because they are only workers. Then we let them go home.”

Bankruptcy supposedly prevented Phan Imex from completing the Borei Keila project a few years ago, but Lida said that in this case, authorities had acted on an order from Phnom Penh Municipal Court that construction at the site cease.

The order, signed by a judge, Svay Tonh, and obtained by the Post yesterday, says that Sophan’s project “affects a public road and other property”. The complainant is a Ko Vannary, though no other details are given.

The construction project, near Tuol Kork market on Street 614, consists of only a small number of flats in their early stages, though building has already begun on the second storey.

Lida would not say yesterday whether authorities had been ordered to dismantle the structure, adding the workers had been told only to “temporarily stop”.

Chea Srun, municipal director of the land management, urban planning and construction department, referred questions back to Tuol Kork officials. Sophan could not be reached for comment.

The site’s shutdown is the latest complication to afflict Sophan’s business affairs.

The tycoon has been on the end of a barrage of criticism and anger from Borei Keila evictees for failing to complete a housing project that relocated hundreds of families far from the capital or left them squatting in tents near where their homes once stood.

Phan Imex was accused of teaming up with the authorities to violently evict many of those families from their homes on January 3, 2012, when they refused to vacate.

Families had agreed to give up their homes at Borei Keila in exchange for flats in 10 high-rises nearby. Only eight were built. Sophan has told the Post previously that bankruptcy kept Phan Imex from finishing the project.

In March, it was revealed that the Phnom Penh Municipal Court ordered Sophan last October to pay $2.7 million to a Korean company over an uncompleted land sale at Borei Keila.

The money, court documents showed, related to a transaction in 2009 involving the Landevel company. The money in question was a deposit on land that was never handed over.

In July, the Ministry of Economy and Finance requested that the National Bank of Cambodia freeze Sophan’s assets because she owed money to two government ministries over land swaps involving state-owned buildings.

Sophan was also summoned to answer questions in front of the National Assembly’s anti-corruption commission last month.

During more than two hours of questioning, led by opposition lawmaker Ho Vann, Sophan denied breaching her contract at Borei Keila.

“[Sophan] said she did not know about any irregularities, nor did she accept that she has violated the contract, just simply answered that there is still empty space in the eight buildings,” Vann said after the hearing.

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