Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - PM nixes casino’s name change



PM nixes casino’s name change

Authorities remove signage bearing the short-lived Sokha Thansur Resort name from a casino on Bokor Mountain in Kampot province yesterday.
Authorities remove signage bearing the short-lived Sokha Thansur Resort name from a casino on Bokor Mountain in Kampot province yesterday. Fresh News

PM nixes casino’s name change

Outrage over the renaming of a casino built on historic Bokor Mountain drew a swift reaction from Prime Minister Hun Sen, who unilaterally overturned the Ministry of Commerce’s approval of the rebrand and ordered the removal of all new resort signage on Saturday.

Thansur Bokor Highland Resort, a massive hotel and casino development in Kampot Province’s Preah Monivong National Park, will keep its name despite its owner’s attempt to rebrand it as Sokha Thansur Resort.

The name change became public in early September, but did not begin generating social media backlash – much of it racially tinged – until last week. Many social media commenters expressed fear that the change would lead to a loss of national identity, and was an attempt on the part of the resort owner, ethnically Vietnamese tycoon Sok Kong, to whitewash Cambodian history.

Some users appeared to wrongly conflate the change in the name of the new resort, which opened in 2012, to a change in the name of the national park as a whole. The park is named after King Sisowath Monivong, who died on Bokor Mountain in 1941, giving the site both historical and royal significance.

Following the outcry, Hun Sen ordered Kampot’s governor to remove the signage via his Facebook page on Saturday morning, saying the “historic area must keep its original name” and thanking “national compatriots” for bringing the issue to his attention.

By late Saturday morning, a coalition of police and military police had removed all traces of signage bearing the new name and social media had been edited to reflect the change.

Reached yesterday, Kong said he would not fight the prime minister’s decision, but pointed out that the Ministry of Commerce granted his company permission to change the name of the resort.

Officials yesterday change the sign of the Thansur Bokor Highland Resort after Prime Minister Hun Sen unilaterally rejected a name change after social media outcry.
Officials yesterday change the sign of the Thansur Bokor Highland Resort after Prime Minister Hun Sen unilaterally rejected a name change after social media outcry. Fresh News

Kong said his intention was to change the name of the resort to match his other properties – Sokha Beach Resort in Sihanoukville, Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel and Sokha Siem Reap Resort – all named after his wife.
“This [place] is Sokha’s. That is Sokha’s also. Is this to forget the history?” he asked.

The Ministry of Commerce acknowledged Saturday that it had granted permission to Kong to use the name “Sokha Hotel Co Ltd”, but maintained it was intended only for the company, not for the resort.

Analysts said yesterday the case highlighted some of the bitter mistrust of Vietnamese that still runs through many Cambodians, as well as the political style of Hun Sen, who has been known to wade into controversy to score political points.

San Chey, country director of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, said many Cambodians are fearful of purported Vietnamese attempts to permeate the country, both figuratively and literally.

In 2015, spurred by rumours that Vietnamese tourists were taking over Bokor Mountain for religious ceremonies, lawmakers and officials led an investigation to try to stop the practice.

“They worry that this name could be forgotten by the next generation,” Chey said.

Political analyst Meas Nee, meanwhile, said the prime minister’s seemingly unilateral decisions are “confusing” the public and erasing the distinction between himself, the CPP and the government.

He likened Hun Sen’s swift reaction to the name change to his unilateral defence of controversial broadcaster ABC Radio after the Health Ministry tried to impound the radio station’s unlicensed ambulances last year.

“We are not sure whether the speeches or statements made by the prime minister are his own views . . . or representative of his government, or representative of his party,” Nee said.

Additional reporting by Daphne Chen

MOST VIEWED

  • Tourists urged not to skip trip

    The Ministry of Tourism has called on international tourists not to cancel trips to Cambodia, but urged them to adhere to several dos and don’ts when arriving in the Kingdom during the Covid-19 pandemic. The ministry released an eight-point instruction manual on Wednesday published

  • The taxman cometh – Cambodia’s capital gains tax casts the net on individual taxpayers

    In a country where only limited personal income tax existed, the new taxation law beginning January 1, 2021, will make taxpayers out of Cambodians, whether they are ready for it or not About two years ago, a little known amendment was made to Article 7 of the Law

  • Cambodian-American gets Star Trek treatment

    Kevin Ung, a Cambodian-American whose family escaped genocide during the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror, was recently selected from thousands of applicants to participate in the Television Academy Foundation’s inaugural 2020 Star Trek Command Training Programme, a course intended to give hands-on filmmaking experience

  • Cambodia seeks to be transport hub

    Cambodia is working on several fronts to modernise its transport infrastructure and services, concentrating on opening new international gates to relieve and balance traffic congestion at its borders, Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol said on Thursday. This is part of the Kingdom’

  • Deminers unearth ancient lion statue

    Cambodia Mine Action Centre (CMAC) director-general Heng Ratana told The Post on Tuesday that a statue of a lion was found by mine clearance experts while they were digging for a development project. It was sent to the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts last

  • 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