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RUFA relocation draws ire

A Royal University of Fine Arts student sketches on campus in an area surrounded by student artwork yesterday in Phnom Penh.
A Royal University of Fine Arts student sketches on campus in an area surrounded by student artwork yesterday in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

RUFA relocation draws ire

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday announced the government will provide $12 million to build a new campus for the Royal University of Fine Arts (RUFA) on the Chroy Changvar Peninsula – a move that will allow for an expansion of the National Museum, but which prompted disappointment among students.

The premier, speaking during a National Culture Day event on Friday, urged the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts to speed up the construction of the new campus and dormitory building on 3 hectares of land on the peninsula. The $12 million will cover the first stage of the construction.

“Please do not wait for three years,” he said. “Be quick … It’s related to human resources, we cannot develop [our culture] without human resources.”

The news on the funding comes only weeks before the historic university celebrates its 100th anniversary at the end of this month.

Thai Norak Sathya, spokesman for the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, said yesterday that the ministry will accelerate the construction of the new university, though there’s still no timeline for the project.

The current campus, sitting on 1 hectare of land next to the National Museum near Phnom Penh’s Riverside, will be used to expand the museum, he said. Currently, historical artefacts are being stored in an underground warehouse at the museum because there’s not enough space to exhibit them, he added.

The new campus will hold the same name, Norak Sathya said. “It won’t affect the students’ studies,” he maintained. “We will not have a problem with the relocation … We want our university to have a big compound.”

Kong Vireak, director of the museum, couldn’t be reached for comment.

However, several students yesterday were upset about the school’s relocation. So Bunareach, 20, said the campus’ transfer could affect the school’s reputation.

“As you know, this school is almost 100 years old,” he said. “This is a special place.” He added that the majority of the students were upset, especially because no feedback was sought from them.

Rathpisal Heng, 19, a second-year student, said the current historic campus provides an environment that draws inspiration for students, given its long history.

“I really don’t feel happy about the news,” he said. “This school is full of good memories. The new location won’t be as good as here, even if it’s bigger.”

Sry Kimkhorn, 19, also a second-year student, said his commute to school will go from about 3 kilometres to some 10 kilometres when the new campus opens.

“It will be harder,” he said of going to school.

Bong Sovath, the university’s rector, couldn’t be reached by phone and didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment.

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