The Cambodian Red Cross, which bills itself as the country’s largest humanitarian organization, is building a six-story luxury hotel in Preah Vihear City.
Government officials said Tuesday that the hotel would be used to generate revenue for the Cambodian Red Cross (CRC). The hotel is being built by the CRC’s Phnom Penh and Preah Vihear branches. Bun Rany, wife of Prime Minister Hun Sen, has been president of the CRC since 1998.
“The initiative is from the Phnom Penh governor [Pa Socheatvong] and other members of his group,” said Uy Sam Ath, director of disaster response at the CRC.
“The money comes from a group of people led by Pa Sochetvong and they join together to build the hotel to host visitors to Preah Vihear,” he added, declining to elaborate on the cost or expected income from the hotel, which is under construction about 75 km south of Laos.
Mr. Socheatvong, who heads the CRC’s Phnom Penh arm, declined to comment on the hotel Tuesday.
Choek Heng, director of the Preah Vihear CRC office, was also scarce for details about the project.
“Construction began sometime in 2013,” she said. “We are building the hotel to create income to support the provincial branch of the Red Cross and to continue to support our humanitarian work.”
Ms. Heng said the building was 60 percent complete, but declined to say who received the construction contract.
Andrea Acerbis, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross’ Cambodia office, said it was not uncommon for local Red Cross arms to enter ventures in order to create revenue.
“I have seen it in other country’s where the Red Cross builds a guesthouse or something in order to support themselves,” Mr. Acerbis said.
However, Lor Chann, Preah Vihear provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, suggested other motivations behind the construction of the hotel under the Red Cross banner.
“They may have constructed the hotel in the name of the Red Cross in order to avoid paying tax to the state,” Mr. Chann said.
“While the Cambodian Red Cross spends millions of dollars building a hotel, there are so many people in Cambodia who need humanitarian assistance,” he added.
The CRC, with branches in 24 provinces, is widely perceived as being an arm of the ruling CPP.
Its president, Ms. Rany, used her position last year to deliver a politically-charged speech while giving aid to flood victims in Pailin province.
At the time, Ms. Rany said the CPP was the only political party flood victims could count on.
“When there are floods or any other incidents, fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters have seen that there is no other party coming to help you here,” she said.
“There is only the CPP because all civil servants are CPP.”
In May last year, three months before the national election, the country’s political and business elite commemorated World Red Cross Day by showering the CRC with $14 million in donations.