Work Starts on Controversial Road Beside City Mosque

Source: The Cambodia Daily

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Workers install a fence around the planned site of a new road near the Al-Serkal Mosque in Phnom Penh on Monday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Phnom Penh authorities on Monday began measuring out a controversial new road to be built next to a prominent mosque in the city’s Boeng Kak neighborhood, rejecting a last-minute request from the area’s Muslim community to move the road’s path an additional 5 meters away from the building.

The community says it fears the road—set to cut through land that was part of the compound of Al-Serkal Mosque—will disturb their services there and has been asking the city to reroute it.

Undeterred, workers began taking measurements at the site on Monday morning in preparation for construction and putting up posts for a temporary fence before halting in the afternoon so that officials could have another meeting with concerned locals.

Following the meeting, deputy Phnom Penh governor Khuong Sreng said the city could not accommodate the community’s latest request because it would require too much of a bend in the road.

“They suggested we move it 5 meters, but we can’t move it and we will follow the plan,” he said. “They can’t stop it; the road must happen.”

Sles Nazy, who heads the Cambodian Muslim Media Center, an NGO that fosters the education of Muslims and Buddhists about each other’s faiths, said he was disappointed by City Hall’s rejection.

“It’s not a boulevard, so if it curves I think a technical group would know how to build it or put up signs,” he said, adding that community members would discuss whether and how to keep pressing their cause.

While visiting the site on Monday morning, Mr. Sreng defended the road as a necessary congestion-fighting measure.

“Look at the city,” he told reporters. “If we have another road, it can reduce traffic jams.”

The row over the road led to the defamation conviction in August of Social Affairs Ministry Secretary of State Ahmad Yahya, who accused Othsman Hassan, a secretary of state at the Labor Ministry, of personally benefiting from its construction.

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