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Britain sells piece of Bangkok embassy to mall firm

Written by: Staff
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BANGKOK, May 15 (Reuters) The British government has sold part of its venerable embassy compound in the heart of Bangkok to a Thai shopping mall developer for an undisclosed sum, the embassy today said.

The purchase of nearly a third of the 12.75-acre property by a unit of the Central Group, which owns a neighbouring mall, is the largest ever property sale by the UK Foreign Office.

Britain's Telegraph newspaper put the sale price at about 50 million pounds.

Originally on the outskirts of Bangkok when the land was bought in 1922, the compound is famed for its sprawling garden in the middle of what is now the main shopping district where property values have soared in recent years.

''The land sold was the most polluted and noisiest part of the compound,'' the embassy said in a statement.

The Foreign Office plans to use 11 million pounds from the sale to improve staff accommodation, recreational facilities and embassy offices.

The rest of the money would be invested in other Foreign Office properties around the world.

The War Memorial and a statue of Queen Victoria would be moved closer to the main residence, the embassy said, and the compound's ''green character'' would be preserved.

Nevertheless, some British expatriates say its a disgrace.

''Is the British government really that hard up?,'' John Sheppard wrote in the Bangkok Post newspaper last month.

With the land sale, ''there's hardly a patch of greenery to rest your eyes on in this blighted city,'' he said.

REUTERS SY BD2116

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