Last week’s passing of Teng Boonma, one of the richest tycoons in Cambodia, does not seem to resonate with everyone in the Kingdom.
Although he was more infamously known for being short-tempered and purportedly dabbling in illegal trade, he was also a well-respected businessman in the local and international business sphere from the 1980s to early 2000s as chairman of Thai Boon Roong Co. Ltd.
Up until his death, aged 75, he maintained a near-top spot of being a mogul worth millions of dollars in assets including real estate.
Boonma’s main, notable achievements in the real estate sector are still present in Phnom Penh, particularly the Intercontinental Hotel Phnom Penh and the Olympic Market building.
The current Olympic Market building in Phnom Penh was the first big development of Thai Bong Roong’s in the early 1990s.
Although the building – housing hundreds of stalls – then caused much uproar among the tenants for its high rental fees, the stalls actually improved from being just a wooden building on ground level under zinc roofing to the impressive concrete building it is today.
Several years after bringing Olympic Market back into business, the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC), a collection of large business members in the country, was created with the support of Boonma, with its first headquarters situated on the top floor of the Olympic Market building.
About 20 years ago, there was no building in Phnom Penh that sat higher than the 15-storey Intercontinental Hotel Phnom Penh. The 350-room, five-star hotel was built in 1996 and opened in 1998. It was Thai Boon Roong’s first massive development project on an international scale, with Boonma at the forefront.
Kim Heang, president of the Cambodian Valuers and Estate Agents Association, appreciated Boonma’s valuable contributions to the Kingdom’s real estate industry. He said, “If you look back at the 1990s in Phnom Penh and the rest of the country, Intercontinental Hotel Phnom Penh was a big pride of ours as many international meetings from the ministry levels to the head of states level were organised there. I think the developments by Teng Boonma have played an invaluable role in helping the country.”
“I respect him as a senior businessman in the real estate sector,” he said. “He was a man, not a God. Everyone makes mistakes. But for what he has done, we have to respect that.”
Ho Vandy, currently a counselor at the CCC and a former co-chairman of a tourism company, said, “Over ten years ago, many important events in the tourism sector, both public and private, chose Intercontinental Hotel Phnom Penh as their first choice because in terms of face, it was a new product in the country.”
When asked if Boonma was the founder of the CCC, Vandy was hesitant. He only said, “From what I remember, the first chairman of the CCC was Teng Boonma.”
Teng Boonma, founder of Thai Boonn Roong Co. Ltd., passed away at midnight on June 17, 2016, in a hospital in Phnom Penh. He was 75 years old. He leaves many legacies behind, including Mekong Cambodia Bank, Intercontinental Hotel Phnom Penh, Borey Kutch Development, hotels in Sihanoukville, and the upcoming Thai Boon Roong Twin Trade Centre, which is set to become the highest building in Cambodia standing 133 storeys if completed.