By Puy Kea
PHNOM PENH, Sept. 3 Kyodo - No one is yet sure when the sky above Phnom Penh is to be pierced by Asia's tallest skyscraper, but Prime Minister Hun Sen said this week he has already approved a
master plan to include the vertiginous piece of architecture in the city's development.
Across the globe, the 555-meter building will be topped only by the 828-meter Burj Khalifa in Dubai. In Asia it will best the World Financial Center in Shanghai, Asia's second tallest building, by 63
meters and top Asia's tallest skyscraper, Taipei 101, by 46 meters.
Hun Sen said the Phnom Penh architectural phenomenon will be
built by Overseas Cambodian Investment Corp., known as Canadia Bank,
which is owned by a Cambodian tycoon who has recently completed a
32-story building, now the tallest building in Cambodia.
But the premier's dream for his impoverished country's skyline
has prompted mixed reactions from local and international experts in
architecture, engineering and construction.
Rainer Israel, director of Cambodian engineering firm iLi
Consulting Engineers Mekong, told Kyodo News the proposal is
ambitious but ''not impossible'' if any investor is committed to
The question, he said, is if the investor ''is really committed
to doing the project.''
He also noted the market in Phnom Penh may not be ready for such
a skyscraper for 10 to 20 years yet.
On the technical side, Israel added, the proposed site at Koh
Pich Island, a newly developed satellite city, is not yet stable
enough for such a massive structure because the island was formed
fewer than 100 years ago.
But, Touch Samnang, project manager at Koh Pich Island City,
said there is no need to worry about stable land because current
technology is such that the building could ''even be built on the
He said the architectural plan for the more than $200 million
skyscraper is in place and has already been submitted to engineers
and concerned ministries and institutions.
''Once we have money, we can build anything,'' he said.
But, he admitted, groundbreaking is still some years away as
more studies are being worked out.
Sung Bonna, president of Bonna Realty Group, said he supports
the project and ''dreams'' to see Phnom Penh with such a high
building, but he was also sanguine about capital investment and the
need for a 555-meter building now.
''If we look at the present markets, it might need at least five
to 10 years, and that still depends on the economic situation and
political stability,'' he said.
But even if the plan for massive skyscraper is now being
considered as premature, it is clear Cambodia is already enjoying a
boom in architectural schemes in the capital, despite concern from
conservationists and cultural groups for Phnom Penh's French colonial
The 32-story Canadia Bank owned by tycoon Pung Khiav Se is
already in place and many other buildings, including 22-, 32-, 38-
and 42-story behemoths, are under construction.
But Vann Molyvann, the renowned Cambodian architect who has
designed many of Phnom Penh's important sites since the 1950s,
including the Independence Monument, Phnom Penh VIP International
Airport and the Olympic Stadium, worries about seeing a massively
high building rise over the capital.
''I do not want to make any comment that will jeopardize the
development plan of the country, but my view is that Burj Khalifa was
assembled in a wealthy area of the world with wealthy foreign
investors for wealthy people.
''Cambodia is a small country'' and it cannot afford ''such a
folly,' he said.
But the prime minister, who has little time for
conservationists, often says the world is ''moving to modernization
and technology'' and Cambodia does not ''deserve'' to be left out.
''We don't have to be too conservative and to be too outdated,''
Hun Sen repeated again this week as he unveiled the plan to push 555
meters into the sky above Phnom Penh.