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Band bids Otres beach bars farewell

Preah Sihanouk Province
A GROUP of guesthouse, restaurant and bar owners on a 1.5-kilometre stretch of Otres beach that authorities plan to clear said farewell on Saturday at an “eviction party” featuring the local band, The Cambodian Space Project.

About 100 people turned out to see the band, the founding member of which, Julien Poulson, expressed concern about the evictions, but noted that the party wasn’t aimed to protest the authorities’ decision.

“The [business owners] are a big part of the community, and they are employing a lot of people and they’re contributing at a grassroots level,” he said.

On January 9, Preah Sihanouk provincial authorities told 46 business owners from the affected section of the beach they had one month to make way for a new garden.

Because they are situated on a public beach, the business owners do not have a legally binding title to their plots of land. It is still unclear exactly when authorities plan to evict them.

Sor Kem, who owns one of the guesthouses that stands to be affected by the garden project, said he did not know what he would do when he was forced to move. “I think if I have to move from this beach, I don’t know where I can go,” he said.

“It’s really bad for my family also. For all the families who have businesses here it will be really difficult for them to send their kids to school and also to get new jobs,” he said.

Pierre Santerne, a bar owner, said he was concerned about the future of the beach itself.

“What I like about this beach is that it is unique: Everyone has their different personalities, and you can see that in their businesses,” he said. “But if they build a big complex it will ruin this.”

Preah Sihanouk province Governor Sboang Sarath could not be reached on Sunday, and Prak Visal, the provincial coastal environment coordinator, said he was too busy to speak with a reporter.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SAM RITH

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