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Friday, December 01, 2006

Gov't Buys $5 Million Townhouse in New York City

327 East 58th Street: Amb. Chem Widhya's new residence in New York

By Erik Wasson and Prak Chan Thul

The Cambodian government spent more than $5 million earlier this month to buy a residence in New York City's swanky Manhattan borough for its ambassador to the UN, the New York Times reported.

The townhouse, located at 327 East 58th Street in the elite Upper East Side neighborhood is now the property of the Kingdom of Cambodia, according to the New York City government property records Web site.

The Cambodian government bought the property from New York photographer Ormond Gigli for $5.1 million, the New York Times reported Sunday. On top of this, the government paid an additional $300,000 to another party to sign over a previous contract to buy the building, the newspaper said.

Cambodia's ambassador to the UN Chem Widhya, a CPP official, currently lives in the less exclusive neighborhood of Forest Hills in the New York borough of Queens, according to Cambodia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Web site. E-mailed questions to Cambodia's permanent mission to the UN on Tuesday had not been responded to by Wednesday.

Foreign Ministry Secretary of State Kao Kim Hourn referred questions on the deal to his fellow Secretary of State Ouch Borith, who said the Finance Ministry had the full details of the purchase.

Finance Ministry Secretary of State Ouk Rabun said when it comes to buying property in the US, $5.1 million may not be pricey.

"How do you know it is expensive? In the US market I don't know how much is cheap and how much is expensive. It depends on what you think," he said.

SRP parliamentarian Keo Remy said the 2006 budget approved by the National Assembly did not mention buying real estate in New York.

"Where is the money coming from? Did we borrow the money? Who did we borrow from? ... We the parliamentarians have not been informed about this purchase," he said.

Keo Remy also said that the money could be better spent elsewhere. "We would prefer that the money be spent on education. The teachers' salary is very low," he said.

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