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Institute land not leased: gov’t

Workers demolish a section of wall at the Buddhist Institute in Phnom Penh
Workers demolish a section of wall at the Buddhist Institute in Phnom Penh on Monday. The Ministry of Cult and Religion has dismissed rumours that land of the Buddhist Institute was being sold or leased. Heng Chivoan

Institute land not leased: gov’t

Responding to reported fears among staff that the destruction of a wall at Phnom Penh’s Buddhist Institute could herald the piecemeal sale of the grounds to adjacent casino operator NagaCorp, the government yesterday chalked the alarm up to a simple misunderstanding.

According to the Ministry of Cult and Religion, the government hasn’t sold or leased any of the institute’s land, and is only allowing NagaCorp to assist government construction of a substation on the institute’s grounds. The substation will be used to power a new addition to the casino across the street from the institute.

Ministry spokesman Seng Somony yesterday invited reporters to a news conference about the casino development, during which press packets containing an estimated $100 were offered to the assembled media, though the Post declined.

Somony also told reporters that the ministry itself plans to relocate to a new building it will erect on the Buddhist Institute’s remaining grounds.

“The government plans to construct a seven- or eight-storey building for the Ministry of Cult and Religion on the Buddhist Institute land,” he said, adding that the ministry’s site at the Preah Sihanouk Raja Buddhist University would be repurposed by the university.

There were no such reassurances, however, for workers at the National Center for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control on Monivong Boulevard this week, who found out that they are moving to Sen Sok district after the centre’s sale as part of a land swap to an undisclosed private company.

On Monday morning, centre director Chor Meng Chuor called a meeting to inform employees that the building had been sold and they would have to clear out immediately. He declined to provide further information, but said each staffer would be given $500 for the proceeds of the sale, according to an employee who asked not to be identified.

“We cannot successfully protest the decision, so we have to move unhappily thanks to the pressure from management,” the employee said.

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