Wee are not amused: $40k toilet for Thai princess unflushed
Phnom Penh, Feb 23: A luxury commode custom-built for a Thai princess's visit to Cambodia was left unused despite its hefty USD 40,000 price tag, local officials said Tuesday, in a poor country where the majority of rural dwellers do not have access to a toilet.
The convenience was built for a visit on Monday by Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn to Yeak Lom lake in northeastern Cambodia. But her two-hour visit ended without her ever having experienced the lavish water closet, community leader Ven Churk told AFP.
The toilet was later "removed" and the adjoining bathroom will now be turned into a security post for tourists visiting the tree-ringed lake, he added.
"She (the Princess) did not go inside the bathroom, she just looked at it from outside and took some pictures," he said.
The toilet took more than two weeks to build and cost an estimated USD 40,000, Ven Churk told AFP. "I have never seen such a bathroom," he said.
Provincial governor Nhem Sam Oeun confirmed the toilet was unused, adding the loo is "very modern, very good... it can't be kept because it is for royals." The Thai side covered the construction costs, he added.
Local media reports said the luxury pan was built by the Siam Cement Group, a Thai construction giant partly owned by the Crown Property Bureau, which manages the Thai royal family's assets and investments.
SCG could not be reached for comment. While the pricey privy has made international headlines it has not received any media attention in Thailand, where a severe lese majeste law punishes any perceived criticism of the royal family with up to 15 years prison. Tin Luong, the chief of Yeak Lom commune, told AFP he was impressed by the "very beautiful" bathroom.
"Thai engineers have constructed the bathroom," he said confirming all of the materials were brought from Thailand. "I estimate that it could cost up to USD 40,000 to build the bathroom. It looks like a house with beautiful decoration," he added.
Figures released last year by UNICEF said 61.5 per cent of Cambodians living in rural areas practice open-defecation -- one of the highest rates in Southeast Asia -- as they have no access to latrines. Thailand's monarchy is among the world's richest, with its fortune in part built through investments in major local businesses such as SCG and Siam Commercial Bank.
After visiting the lake, the princess opened a new health centre that was donated by the Thai royal family. She also met with Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen during the visit.