Phnom Penh recently saw the destruction of a portion of the Buddhist Institute to make way for the expansion of a casino. Political analyst Lao Mong Hay told “Hello VOA” last week that this kind of development demonstrates an “imbalance” between public and private institutions.
The destruction of the front wall of the institute, adjacent to Naga World Casino, began in May, prompting protests from monks and others, particularly on social media.
Lao Mong Hay said the casino expansion not only hurts the institution’s physical building, but it is harmful to what the building represents.
A general view of people in front of NagaWorld casino in central Phnom Penh January 11, 2014.
Callers to the program said they were angered by the damage.
“What’s the point of building all those institutions, only to have them dismantled by greedy politicians,” said a caller from Battambang province who identified himself as Vibol.
Officials at the Ministry of Cults and Religions could not be reached for comment, but the ministry’s Facebook page says
the casino promises to repair the wall after construction is complete.
Still, Lao Mong Hay said the walls removal was the latest in a long-running trend, where public institutions suffer under the “anarchic” race for development.
A Google Maps screenshot shows the Naga World casino towering over nearby state buildings including the Buddhist Institute (West) as well as the National Assembly and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Phnom Penh. (Google Maps)
Naga World is the only casino in Phnom Penh, and its location, in the midst of many government institutions, sends a bad signal, he said.
“It looks so inappropriate, having a gambling building imposing over smaller buildings like the Buddhist Institute and the statue of a late Cambodian patriarch,” he said.
In response to a question from an online listener, Lao Mong Hay said the removal of the casino is not possible