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Royal Group told to hurry up

A fisherman goes about his daily work in Ream National Park
A fisherman goes about his daily work in Ream National Park. A Licadho senior investigator said development in the area could adversely affect the communities living nearby. STEFAN FUSSAN

Royal Group told to hurry up

In a move aimed at boosting the speed of development, the ministry of environment set out a six-month deadline yesterday for two developers to finish their applications and submit plans for their projects in Ream National Park.

The developers are Evergreen Success and Asia Development Co, which were given the greenlight in 2008 to develop 1,480 hectares for a tourism-related project, and Royal Group Co, which was granted 1,408 hectares in 2009 for an eco-tourism venture.

“The ministry will closely monitor their progress and will re-evaluate them again after six months,” said Environment Minister Say Sam Al at a press conference yesterday.

Neither company has completed all the application procedures required by law or submitted a master plan, said Sao Sopheap, ministry of environment spokesman.

“It is a requirement before they can start their development activities on the site,” Sopheap said.

“In six months’ time, we will evaluate them again. If they show no progress at all, then the government will decide what to do next.”

Created in 1993, Ream National Park is made up of 21,000 hectares of coastal area in Preah Sihanouk province.

But in recent years, several projects have carved away land for private development despite the park’s protected status.

Am Sam Ath, senior investigator with rights group Licadho, said that while development plans usually aim to improve the affected communities’ living standards, most of the time the result is the opposite.

“Some of the area given for development at the Ream National Park has overlapped with the land of local residents. So far, there has not been any resettlement for them,” he said.

“Until now, we still have not seen any progress from the development plans, although people in the community are affected by not being able to earn from the forests around the park like they used to.”

Ho Vandy, co-chair of the Government-Private Sector Working Group on Tourism, said he welcomed the ministry of environment’s move and encouraged putting pressure on stalled development projects.

“Around 20 islands have been granted to investors to develop into tourism sites, however, only six islands are being developed. I hope to see more actions from the government to push other projects which will benefit the whole tourism industry,” he said.

Kith Meng, CEO of Royal Group, declined to comment, while Evergreen Success and Asia Development Co yesterday did not respond to the Post by press time.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHARLES ROLLET

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