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Not all buildings created equal

Not all buildings created equal

120216_03

When Prime Minister Hun Sen warned two government ministers that trading their ministry’s public buildings could cost them their jobs last week, he had already signed off on four such exchanges himself, the latest royal book shows.

Pha Lina/Phnom Penh Post
Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks on Tuesday at the groundbreaking ceremony for the expansion of National Road 6 in Phnom Penh.

Last Tuesday, the premier publicly berated information minister Khieu Kanaharith and Culture and Fine Arts Minister Him Chhem for attempting to trade the Agency Kampuchea Press and National Library buildings, respectively.

But on January 26, the premier signed off on reclassifications of the National Audit Authority, Ministry of Health, Central Medicine Warehouse and National Radio Station into state-private property.

Mam Sitha, president of the NGO Cambodian Independent Anti-Corruption Committee, said the prime minister had contradicted himself.

“The PM just said he did not want to move state buildings, but now the prime minister signed to move the state building – we have to respect what he said,” she said.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers said that, from his understanding, the Prime Minister wanted to preserve buildings that were in good condition, had prominent exposure and heritage, but was willing to reclassify some others that did have these qualities.

“The prime minister wants to preserve the buildings where it is convenient and they are in  good shape, they look good. He authorized some buildings, but those that are in good condition, have good exposure – he wants to keep them,” he said.

Ouch Leng, head of the land program at the rights group Adhoc, said the prime minister was demonstrating his supreme power over everyone else.

The government has been criticised in the past for trading its ageing buildings for financial gain at the expense of the city’s heritage.

Am Sam Ath, a senior investigator for rights group Licadho, said this kind of individual profiteering cost both civil servants who had to travel to inconvenient locations and the city as a whole.

“If the buildings are still okay for working (in), the government should keep it; if it’s ruined they should to reconstruct. The government should be thinking about the national interest over individual interests,” he said.

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