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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Manager of the historic Renakse Hotel says she fears for her safety

Manager of the historic Renakse Hotel says she fears for her safety

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Kem Chantha claims unexpected visitors inspected the hotel grounds, while officials say no action has been taken yet to deal with her refusal to leave the property, which has been sold

TRACEY SHELTON

The landmark Renakse Hotel in Phnom Penh on Sunday. The owner said she fears for her safety following a hotel inspection by unidentified visitors on Saturday.

KEM Chantha, manager of the landmark Renakse Hotel, told the Post Sunday she fears for her safety in the wake of a controversy that has seen the government break its lease with her and sell the hotel to a private company.

"I am really scared because yesterday three cars pulled up and four individuals attempted to book rooms," she said. "My staff told them no rooms were available, but they inspected the grounds before they finally left."

Kem Chantha has managed the hotel for more than two decades, but a government letter delivered October 24 announced that her 49-year lease would be broken and a new owner, Alexan Inc, would develop the 7,000-square-metre property for new government housing.

The Ministry of Religions and Cults, which has been put in charge of the project, said the property needed to be vacated by the end of September, according to Kem Chantha, who continues to occupy the hotel.

She said she has appealed to the Cambodian People's Party, the former leaseholder.

"I wrote a letter to the Cambodian People's Party seeking permission to buy the hotel," she said. "I can give the same price as Alexan Inc, or higher. I hope the government will sell to me, since I hold the current lease. Otherwise, they would be acting illegally."

FOUR INDIVIDUALS ATTEMPTED TO BOOK ROOMS...THEY INSPECTED THE GROUNDS.

Alexan offered US$200,000 in compensation for breaking the lease on the hotel, she said. A photocopy of a check in that amount was posted on the hotel's gate last Wednesday, she said.

"Khiev Sepphan [the lawyer representing the CPP] posted a photocopied Cambodia Public Bank cheque on my hotel gate and I don't know why."

Khiev Sepphan told the Post his office had contacted Kem Chantha three times about vacating the premises and that so far no action has been taken against her for refusing to leave.

"The reason we posted a photocopy of the check was because Kem Chantha said we were only saying we would pay the $200,000 and that she had not seen the money," he said.

"Now, she can receive the real check from me or Min Khin, secretary of state for the Ministry of Religions and Cults, at any time and can't say that we don't intend to pay her," he said.

He added the lease was broken because Kem Chantha failed to honour Article Three of her contract, which states that she had three years to repair the hotel and bring it up to international standards, but that nearly eight years have passed with nothing done.

"Now the negotiations are between the Renakse owner and Alexan Inc. If she doesn't want the $200,000, she can ask for more," he said.

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