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Private companies warned on beach access

Tourists walk on a beach in Sihanoukville. The government has vowed to take action against companies that restrict public beach access in the Kingdom.
Tourists walk on a beach in Sihanoukville. The government has vowed to take action against companies that restrict public beach access in the Kingdom. Heng Chivoan

Private companies warned on beach access

The government has vowed to crack down on coastal hotels and resorts that have restricted public access to beaches or constructed illegal encroachments within 50 metres of the shoreline.

Tourism Minister Thong Khon warned yesterday that his ministry will give private companies a deadline to remove any fences or constructions that violate a government directive that ensures all beaches in the Kingdom remain public property.

“We’re talking about the area within 50 metres of the sea, which belongs to the public,” he said.

“This applies everywhere, including on islands and land claimed by hotels. We already have a directive, but it hasn’t been implemented.”

Khon said Cambodia’s coastal area is the country’s second-biggest tourism draw and the government and private sector must work together to manage its resources.

“If we don’t raise this issue now, it will affect our beach [development],” he said.

“And if we cannot control the area within 50 metres of the sea, how can we implement a management policy for our beaches?”

Several beaches along Cambodia’s coastline have been designated as private beaches by their adjacent resort and hotel owners.

However, staff at the Independence Hotel in Sihanoukvile denied that the hotel restricts public access to its beach, claiming that non-guests can request permission to use the beach.

The hotel’s management could not be reached yesterday for further comment.

Similarly, the Sokha Hotel on a quiet bay in Sihanoukville has fenced in its beach and charges an admission fee to non-guests, which includes the use of its pool.

According to Khon, this violates the public’s right to use the beach.

“The hotel built a fence around the beach, so we asked them to open the gate and we will build a path for people to access the beach,” he said.

Ho Vandy, an adviser to the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the Tourism Ministry’s decision to enforce public beach access, saying he has been asking for it since 2006.

“We requested not to let private companies build encroachments on public beaches and the authorities should have the legal means to ensure that the public has access to the beach,” he said.

“But it depends on the law, and investors should know the law.”

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