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

  • Government hits back at threats to pull EBA, suspend UN seat

    The spokesman for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has said the government is in no way concerned after the European Parliament gave it three months to reverse what it called the “systematic repression of the political opposition”. Ignoring the ultimatum could mean facing

  • Chinese influx pushing locals, Westerners out of Preah Sihanouk

    Some within the Kingdom’s tourism industry have speculated that the recent influx of Chinese visitors may hinder domestic tourism as the price of accommodations in the coastal city of Sihanoukville continues to rise. Preah Sihanouk province, which has become a hotbed for Chinese investment

  • Sar Kheng: Sokha requested security

    Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Sunday revealed the story behind the transfer of former opposition party leader Kem Sokha from Trapaing Phlong prison in Tbong Khmum province to his house in the capital. Speaking at the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) headquarters in Prey

  • ‘Dire consequences’ from sanctions, warns AmCham

    American businesspeople in Cambodia have warned that any sanction against the Kingdom would have “dire consequences” that could push Cambodia even further into the arms of China. In a letter to US senators and representatives dated Monday, the American Chamber of Commerce Cambodia (AmCham) said