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Otres businesses face eviction

Owners vow to fight on after receiving a one-week deadline to vacate the beachfront

ABOUT 70 business owners on Sihanoukville’s Otres beach have been issued an order from Preah Sihanouk provincial governor Sboang Sarath to relocate within a week.

The notice, dated June 16, was delivered to guesthouse, restaurant and bar owners located on a 1.5-kilometre stretch of the beach after a meeting on Tuesday, during which the governor reiterated his intention to move them out to make room for a municipal garden.

According to the notice, the business owners will be forcibly removed if they fail to meet the new June 30 deadline.

“If they do not move, the authorities will evict them, and the authorities are not responsible for their property,” the notice reads.

“The authorities will not let the residents build houses, sell and rent to private [interests] because the area beach is owned by the state. Some of them make the area dirty and do not have manners.”

A similar notice was issued in January, though it was never acted upon.

Business owners on Wednesday vowed to protest the pending eviction, saying that authorities had not given them sufficient time to find other ways to support themselves.

“The vendors will meet to postpone the eviction again on Thursday because this place is our life and our livelihood,” said Sok Heng, a vendor who works on the beach.

Sor Kem, who owns a business that stands to be affected, said the owners had been told at the meeting to “return to where we came from”.

“In the meeting they gave us the paper that said on the 30th of this month the people have to remove their houses and they do not have any other option,” he said. “They will bring bulldozers and take the buildings down.”

Because the businesses are on a public beach, their owners have no legal avenue to resist the eviction.

But business owners such as Rainer Deyhle, who owns Cinderella Dive Resort and Beach Bungalows, have previously complained that officials had been more than willing to sell them operating licences, and have said these should be honoured.

“We do know that our position on Otres Beach is not perfectly legal. None of us will oppose a serious and reasonable solution to this matter, but we do not agree to lose our property for a useless garden which nobody will use and which will make the situation for Cambodian tourism even worse,” he said in an email.

Sboang Sarath could not be reached for comment on Wednesday. His deputy, Phai Phan, declined to comment.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY DAVID BOYLE

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