$40,000 toilet built for Thai royal's visit to Cambodia

Imported commode will be dumped after princess’s three-day trip and freestanding outhouse converted into office

A toilet estimated to have cost up to $40,000 has been built for the personal use of Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand when she visits Cambodia, officials have said.

The toilet – a freestanding outhouse measuring 8 sq metres – is fully air-conditioned, took two weeks to build and cost 66 times the average annual salary in Cambodia. Thai building firm SCG Cement-Building Materials was tasked with the job, bringing in contractors and special materials from Thailand. The final touch will be added on Monday when a special imported commode will arrive.

Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn
Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. Photograph: Francois Guillot/AFP/Getty Images

The toilet is located near Yeak Lom lake in Ratanakiri province, where the princess will begin her three-day visit to Cambodia on Monday. The royal itinerary includes opening a new health centre, breaking ground on the site of a planned technology institute and dining with King Norodom Sihamoni.

Ven Churk, head of the Yeak Lom lake committee, which is helping to coordinate the visit, told the Cambodia Daily that SCG workers had said the bathroom cost “more than $40,000 to construct”. It is unclear who is footing the bill.

Tin Luong, the chief of Yeak Lom commune, told local media he had seen the outhouse and was impressed. “I would estimate that they spent about $20,000 to $30,000 for the bathroom’s construction because all of the materials are very modern,” he said.

Once the princess leaves Ratanakiri, her special commode will be thrown out and the building will be converted into an office for local officials. A manager from SCG, identified only as Mr Pursat, said: “Normal people can’t use a [royal] toilet.”

A large proportion of Cambodia’s population has trouble accessing any toilet at all. About 33% of schools nationwide have no toilet facilities, according to data from the Cambodian ministry of education. NGOs estimate that the figure could be as high as 80% in rural areas such as Ratanakiri.

“The royals are totally out of touch with the world of ordinary Thais and Cambodians,” said Andrew MacGregor Marshall, a former journalist and the author of A Kingdom in Crisis: Thailand’s Struggle for Democracy in the 21st Century.

Cambodia’s education minister, Hang Chuon Naron, told local media that the princess would also visit schools during her visit and was expected to donate 200 scholarships to Khmer students. “The visit of Princess Sirindhorn shows the good bilateral relationship between Cambodia and Thailand, especially in the field of education,” Naron told the Phnom Penh Post.

Additional reporting by Aisha Kehoe Down

Alexander Anax in Phnom Penh

The GuardianTramp

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