PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA —
A Cambodian Red Cross branch opened a luxury hotel Tuesday, a controversial effort that organizers hope will earn more revenue for humanitarian causes.
The Green Tel Palace, located near the ancient Preah Vihear temple near the Thai border, has six stories and 80 rooms and took three years to build, with funding from the Red Cross branch in Phnom Penh.
Rath Sophea, acting director of the Red Cross in Preah Vihear, told VOA Khmer there was “nothing wrong” with using Red Cross funding for such an effort.
“We hope that it will generate income to help humanitarian activity, because we only rely on philanthropists,” he said. If there were another funding channel, he added, "we could give more support to the poor."
However, he could not give information about the hotel’s costs.
The Cambodian Red Cross is overseen by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s wife, Bun Rany, and has been criticized in the past for its close ties to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party. Phum Chantiny, secretary-general of the Cambodian Red Cross, declined to comment on the hotel.
Lor Chan, Preah Vihear coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said the construction of the hotel was not unethical, if it served the public interest. But he raised concerns about whether its profits would to go those in need.
“We don’t know what is occurring in the internal workings or anything related to the budget, which perhaps will not be able to help the poor or those who face real problems," he said.
The Preah Vihear temple was recently part of a border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia, which won a court battle to gain permanent control over the ancient location.
Because of its remote location inside Cambodia, most tourists visit the temple from the nearby Thai side of the border.
This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Khmer service.