T HE leasee of the Diamond Hotel Ouy Soeung has announced he is also taking over another government owned hotel, the Sukhalay, which is virtually next door on Monivong Boulevard.
The seven-storey Sukhalay had been closed down for the last three months after the previous leasee, Po Chev Hak, left unexpectedly, said Seoung. The new leasee believes Hak is now in the United States.
Seoung says he will spend $1.8 million of his own money to completely refurbish the Sukhalay and will rename it the Diamond II.
He was speaking on Aug 7 after signing a 25-year lease contract at the Council of Ministers.
Under the deal he will pay $15,000 rent to the government in the first 15 years and $18,000 in the last 10 years.
The courteous and affable Soeung said he wants to refurbish and enlarge the Sukhalay's 80 rooms to modern international standards.
Workmen are currently removing all the old fittings from the Sukhalay.
"Though there are many hotels already in Phnom Penh, most of those hotels are nearly the same as guest houses. They are not comfortable and not equipped with the fashionable internal fittings and the price of the room is cheap - just for local people," Soeung said
He said it was too soon to say what rates he would charge for rooms or when the hotel would reopen.
But Seoung has high hopes that the Diamond II will turn a profit by catering to businessman drawn to Cambodia by an investment boom.
He also said that he had not detected any drop in tourist numbers due media coverage of the Western hostage incidents.
The Royal Government has retained control of a number of prime hotels, including the Grand in Siem Reap after inheriting them from the State of Cambodia regime.
Seoung is also a marketing representative for Cambrew, the makers of Angkor Beer.
The entrepeneur said he made his fortune after living as a commoner in the capital and surviving the Pol Pot years.