$40,000 royal ‘throne’ goes unused

Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. Source: Flickr

A toilet that cost an estimated US$40,000 to build for a Thai princess visiting Cambodia was left unused, officials said.

It may be some consolation that Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn reportedly took photos of the toilet building from the outside during her visit to Yeak Lom Lake in northeast Cambodia.

The Thais picked up the bill, Cambodian officials added.

The porcelain ‘throne’ has now been removed and the outhouse will be used as a tourist office.

The story made headlines in Cambodia, where fewer than 40 per cent of people in rural areas have access to toilets.

The toilet, installed inside a specially constructed air-conditioned outhouse, was built ahead of Sirindhorn’s two-hour visit to the northeastern lake on Monday, reportedly at her request.

“She [the Princess] did not go inside the bathroom, she just looked at it from outside and took some pictures,” community leader Ven Churk said. “I have never seen such a bathroom.”

Provincial governor Nhem Sam Oeun confirmed the toilet was unused, adding the commode is “very modern, very good… it can’t be kept because it is for royals.” He confirmed it was built at Thai expense.

The building had been given to the community to be used as a tourist office, he added.

The project was completed by the Siam Cement Group, a Thai building conglomerate in part owned by a firm, Crown Property Bureau, that manages the Thai royal family’s assets and investments.

SCG could not be reached for comment. A SCG manager, called Mr Pursat, previously said: “Normal people can’t use a [royal] toilet.”

The toilet was later “removed” and the bathroom will now be turned into a security post for tourists visiting the tree-lined lake, Nhem Sam Oeun added.

While the regal ‘throne’ has made the international headlines it has received no media attention in Thailand, where a severe lese majeste law is increasingly being used to punish any perceived criticism of the royal family with up to 15 years prison.

UN children’s organisation Unicef reported last year that 61.5 per cent of rural Cambodians practised open-defecation, one of the highest rates in Southeast Asia, as they had no access to latrines.

Thailand’s monarchy is among the richest in the world, with its fortune in part built through investments in major Thai businesses, such as SCG and Siam Commercial Bank.

After visiting the lake, Sirindhorn opened a health centre that was donated by the Thai royal family. She also met Cambodia’s veteran Prime Minister Hun Sen during the trip.