Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday threatened to fire two government ministers unless they dumped the idea of exchanging the state’s ageing public buildings, which he said should be preserved.
In a very public berating, delivered at the inauguration of a new government building at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, the Prime Minister made examples of Information Minister Khieu Kanharith and Culture and Fine Arts Minister Him Chhem.
According to Hun Sen, Khieu Kanharith had asked the government to exchange the Khmer Press Agency building, while Him Chhem had suggested a similar fate for the national library building.
“If Khieu Kanharith still wants to exchange the Khmer Press Agency building, I think he should withdraw from his position; otherwise, I will remove him” Hun Sen said.
The prime minister had similar words for Him Chhem, adding that the national library building was an old building that “must be preserved”.
The government has been criticised in the past for trading its ageing buildings on the outskirts of the city for more convenient locations close to the centre of Phnom Penh.
Civil society organisations welcomed the prime minister’s stance on the state’s older buildings yesterday.
Ni Chakrya, monitoring director of Adhoc, said that although the head of government had prohibited ministry officials from exchanging government buildings and institutions in the past, many had still been swapped, including the Royal University of Fine Arts, which had been situated on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.
“I think that this warning is a bit late, but it constitutes a good sign in deterring the exchange of the state’s cultural buildings, which are the national heritage for our governmental institutions,” he said.
“However, we will keep examining how effective the premier’s warning is.”
Khieu Kanharith and Him Chhem were not available for comment yesterday.