Cambodia Government Wants to Reign Supreme Over Sihanoukville Unbridled Development

Cambodia, Sihanoukville, development, China

The unrestrained development in Sihanoukville on the Cambodian Coast along the Gulf of Siam starts also to worry the government as local population is increasingly protesting against Chinese seizure over land and business in the area.

The seeds to revolt has been growing for a while in Southern Cambodia as land in Sihanoukville, a major seaside resort along the Gulf of Thailand, has fallen piece by piece into the hands of Chinese investors. While to see investors coming into impoverished Cambodia can be interpreted as a sign of confidence for the Kingdom and bring employment for locals, China presence has mostly turned negative.

Unbridled development with little control from local authorities has turned Sihanoukville into a Chinese town with hundreds of casinos, karaoke bars, entertainment venues, restaurants and shops. Law enforcement has been very loose by local authorities over the last five years, leaving investors almost free to do whatever suits them.

Rising prices for rental and land acquisition, construction of condominiums and hotels along the beaches are consequently pushing locals and non Chinese tourists out of town. Many foreign tourists now complaint over the flow of Chinese tourists who sometimes behave badly. Cheap flights to Sihanoukville from all over China tend to attract not the best of Chinese travellers…

The Sihanoukville Department of Tourism showed that in the first half of this year, Preah Sihanouk province received 1.3 million tourists – up more than 10 per cent from the same period last year. But tourists from China make up the most foreign visitors to the area – up nearly 44 per cent from last year.

Finally, the government is stepping into the arena and wants to control the development in the Province. Following an order from Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction ordered the Preah Sihanouk provincial authorities to halt construction in the province without its authorisation. The Province will not be able to issue anymore permits for construction without the Ministry’s approval. Legal procedures would also be enforced in a stricter way.

Talking to the Phnom Penh Post, Ministry secretary of state Chhan Saphan explained : “There are a number of ongoing constructions in Preah Sihanouk province – some near completion – without the ministry’s authorisation. They only have the construction permit given by the Preah Sihanouk provincial authorities. This opposes Royal Sub-Decree 86, Article 5, Subsection 2 which says ‘construction permits shall be signed by a Chairman of the National Committee of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction upon the approval of the concerned authorities’.”

Two new Five and Four-Star hotels received approval in June in Sihanoukville

Preah Sihanouk provincial governor Yun Min said that he will from now adhere strictly to government directives. The governor has been accused by some of corruption.

In September, the government stepped in to stop development along Prek Treng beach in Otres commune and to restore the beach to its previous condition, after investors filled the beach to build bungalows. Many other properties have already been built destroying homes while restricting public beaches to local people.

Cambodia Minister of Tourism Thong Khon, who is also the vice-president of the National Committee on Coastal Area Management and Development (NCCMD), recently reminded that a law on coastal area management issued by the government and NCCMD, bans development within at least 100 metres of the beach.

He said to local newspapers the government would not allow anyone to destroy Cambodia’s beautiful coastal areas that attract so many tourists.

After the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning, and Construction wrote to Preah Sihanouk authorities on October 4, the ministry released another statement announcing the setting of six inspection teams. “ The teams will be tasked to monitor and inspect construction projects in Preah Sihanouk province and instruct them to follow construction laws and other legal and technical procedures. They then teams will report to the Ministry of Land Management to decide,” said the ministry’s statement.