Owners of other buildings report hearing no concerns
AGOVERNMENT official who has been identified as the owner of the Skyline Apartments on Wednesday confirmed that a gym overlooking Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Phnom Penh villa had been ordered to close due to national security concerns, but declined to elaborate on the specific threat it posed.
Meanwhile, the owners of other high-rise buildings with views of the villa said they had not been approached by police expressing concerns about security threats.
Last week, Richard Chin, the owner of the ninth-floor AusFit gym, said local police had informed him that he would need to vacate by the end of the month. A letter posted inside the gym informed clients that “Cambodian National Security” had told him he would be held “accountable for any incidents related to government personnel safety due to the apartment’s rooftop access”.
On Wednesday, Uth Chhorn, the head of the government’s National Audit Authority, who was identified by staff members as the owner of the complex, also said the gym was a security risk.
“We shut down the gym in the interest of security, but I would not like to comment more on this at this time,” he said. He added that he was still “gathering information” about the issue, and that he would be willing to comment further at a later date.
“I want to surprise everyone with why we shut down the gym at Skyline, but now is not the right time for me to comment about that because we don’t have all the information,” said Uth Chhorn, who last year was also appointed to the independent counsellor position at the Khmer Rouge tribunal.
He then abruptly ended the interview, and did not confirm that he was the owner of the building.
Chin also proved evasive when asked on Wednesday if he could elaborate on why the gym was being closed. In an email, he said he had a “fair idea” of the “real reason”, but declined to say much more.
“I won’t be able to tell you,” he said. “It is purely for their personal gains. The pack of wolves share the killed.”
Khath Narith, the chief of Tonle Bassac commune, where the apartment building is located, said last week that he was not aware of local police ordering AusFit to move, though he did note that local authorities had advised the owners of all tall buildings in the area to closely monitor residents.
But businesspeople operating out of tall buildings nearby said Wednesday that they had received no such instructions.
Chan Picheth, general manager of the gym occupying the sixth, seventh and eighth floors of The Place, a building located about a block west of the premier’s residence, said workers there “have never received any information from local authorities about any security or terrorism risk”.
He noted that the building offered a clear view of the villa.
“On public holidays, or when high-ranking officials or delegates visit near the prime minister’s house, police come here to monitor the area from the rooftop,” he said.
The owner of a new nine-storey apartment building near the corner of Sothearos and Sihanouk boulevards, who declined to give his name, said local police had paid him a routine visit to discuss security matters when the building opened about a month ago, but that they had not appeared to be concerned about his view.
“If you stand at the top you can see the premier’s house, but police said it’s not a problem for security,” he said.
Hun Sothy, the police chief of Daun Penh district, and Sok Penhvuth, the district’s deputy governor, declined to comment Wednesday.