Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Bokor church transferred for update




Bokor church transferred for update

The abandoned French colonial church atop Bokor Mountain, which was recently transferred to a Catholic association to be renovated and put back to use. Photo supplied
The abandoned French colonial church atop Bokor Mountain, which was recently transferred to a Catholic association to be renovated and put back to use. Photo supplied

Bokor church transferred for update

On Christmas Eve, the Cambodian government transferred control of the abandoned church on Bokor Mountain to a Catholic community, with plans to renovate the dilapidated house of worship.

Sitting atop Bokor Mountain in Preah Monivong National Park, the church is part of a cluster of abandoned French colonial buildings from the 1920s that includes a casino also undergoing renovations. The French abandoned the area in the 1940s, and in the 1990s it become one of the last holdouts of the murderous Khmer Rouge regime.

“During the Khmer Rouge, this church was not used properly based on Christian practices. Now we transfer it to the Christian community,” said Sao Sopheap, spokesman for the Ministry of Environment.

Sopheap added that the Catholic association would be responsible for the renovations.

Ly Sovanna, executive director of Catholic Nations Office for Social Communication (CSC) in Cambodia, said his organisation was given custodianship simply because they requested it.

“The government paid attention to our request,” he said, noting that it took the ministry a few years to respond.

Sovanna noted that the ministry still has final authority over the church, because it is within a national park. CSC will be given specific property boundaries defined by the ministry.

“This is just the agreement to transfer [control] . . . There are many following stages, a few years for the renovation, but we will set boundaries by 2018 at the latest . . . we will maintain its originality because it is history,” Sovanna continued.

He said he did not know the budget yet, but CSC would appeal for aid from Italy, France and charitable institutions.

Meanwhile, tycoon Sok Kong said he was almost finished renovating the old French casino on Bokor Mountain, and would reopen the building as a hotel this coming March.

“The former casino will now be opened as a hotel in March next year. We have been renovating for more than a year on this casino hotel. Now we have 36 rooms to offer services. We have not set the price yet,” Kong said, adding that it would be named “Le Royale Phnom Bokor”.

Dr Michel Tranet, a Cambodian cultural historian, said that it was a shame the church had been allowed to fall into such a state of disrepair.

“It is our cultural history; it defines what we experienced under French colonialism. In other countries, they don’t leave old things behind because it’s part of the national heritage. We need to recognise it as our national heritage,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • PM: West unfair to Cambodia

    Prime Minister Hun Sen released a message celebrating the International Day of Peace on Monday, saying that some major powers and western countries had been systemically cooperating to put political pressure on Cambodia as they did in the 1970s and 1980s. Hun Sen said pressuring

  • First ‘mobile kitchen’ in Cambodia enters service

    A catering company recently rolled out Cambodia’s first “mobile kitchen” – a $50,000 container capable of serving up to 200 people at a time. The kitchen is the brainchild of Seng Hok Heng Catering Services. At 4.4m-high, 6.8m-long and 2.4m-wide (expandable to 6.8m), the kitchen is equipped

  • Kingdom, China rebut basis for US sanctions

    The Council for the Development of Cambodia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and Tianjin Union Investment Development Group Co Ltd (Tianjin) have responded to US sanctions on Union Development Group Co Ltd (UDG), a Chinese-owned company currently developing the sprawling $3.8 billion Dara

  • Influenza breaks out in eight provinces

    Nearly 600 people have been infected with influenza in eight provinces in the past month, Ministry of Health spokesperson Or Vandine said. The ministry is advising extreme caution. A report released by Vandine on Saturday said the Ministry of Health observed transmissions of influenza between August 15

  • ‘Bad news is an investor’s best friend’ – unlocking investment potential in Cambodia

    It is time to shop. Economic woes provide good pickings for investors if they know where to look The poem If, written by English Nobel laureate poet and novelist Rudyard Kipling for his son circa 1895, is widely perceived as fatherly advice for John who would

  • CNRP activist freed; Sam Rainsy pledges return to Kingdom

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday released former CNRP activist Oeur Narith on bail after the court ended its questioning on suspicion of receiving money from abroad and plotting to overthrow the government, according to the authorities. National Police spokesman Chhay Kim Khoeun confirmed