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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Billboards spell end to riverside's rustic charms

Billboards spell end to riverside's rustic charms

THE RURAL view that Phnom Penh riverside strollers and restaurant-goers see

across the Tonle Sap will soon be a thing of the past.

In a move seen by

some as visual pollution of the environment, the OMC Company Ltd, which has the

Cambodia franchises for Suzuki and Sharp, is erecting two large billboards on

the Chruoy Changvar bank of the Tonle Sap to advertise its products.

The

billboards, on iron frames each 20 meters long and nine meters high, will block

the view of the village just north of Wat Saempou Trei Lak opposite Wat

Ounalom.

They have been built near the dry-season bank of the Tonle Sap,

and when the river is in flood will be 200 meters from the rainy-season

bank.

But there is confusion at City Hall over just who has approved the

billboard construction.

When the Post asked Phnom Penh Municipal Governor

Chea Sophara about their construction, he said OMC had permission only for the

temporary hoardings displayed for the three days of the Water Festival, and

denied they had permission for permanent billboards.

"They asked us to do

this, but those boards were only permitted for the Water Festival and are not

permanent," he said.

However Non Sameth, Deputy Chief of Cabinet of Phnom

Penh, said the city had indeed given OMC permission to build permanent

billboards and maintain them on a year-by-year contract, because the Phnom Penh

Municipality wanted to hide the squatter houses next to Wat Trei

Lak.

When the Post suggested that some people regarded the billboards as

visual pollution, Sameth said: "We understand the [visual] pollution; we already

think ahead about this. But we also want to hide the squatters at the

back."

He said only one company had asked permission to build

hoardings.

And he said the billboards would be removed eventually when

the city proceeded with its plans to develop the riverbank of the Chruoy

Changvar peninsula.

OMC's Administration Manager, Chhon Song Meng, agreed

that the billboards were permanent constructions but denied that the view of the

river would be adversely affected. That would happen only if other companies put

up more billboards, he said.

At the worksite itself, a construction

worker was more forthcoming. He said OMC had permission from the City Fathers to

maintain the billboards for three years. The Royal Palace had stipulated that no

hoardings could be built any further south than the two now built, but it was

conceivable that a line of billboards could run from these two all the way to

the Chrouy Changvar bridge.

He said that the frames were nine meters high

because when the river was in flood the first three meters would be under

water.

One indignant inhabitant of Sisowath Quay said the view across the

Tonle Sap was unique, perhaps the only capital city in the world where

inhabitants and tourists could look across the river at a charming rural

view.

By allowing the billboards, presumably for a few quick dollars, the

city was destroying that view.

"It's an exercise in vulgarity," he said.

"What is now unique will be rendered banal by day and a floodlit affront at

night."

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