Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Royal Group’s Sihanoukville port to be razed

Royal Group’s Sihanoukville port to be razed

People relax at a beach in Sihanoukville in 2013. The National Committee for Cambodia Bay Management and Development issued a statement earlier this week calling for developers to abide by a 50-metre construction-free zone from the shoreline.
People relax at a beach in Sihanoukville in 2013. The National Committee for Cambodia Bay Management and Development issued a statement earlier this week calling for developers to abide by a 50-metre construction-free zone from the shoreline. Sam Rith

Royal Group’s Sihanoukville port to be razed

A government committee has ordered tycoon Kith Meng’s Royal Group to stop construction of a passenger port it was building on Sihanoukville’s Otres Beach, which it said was in clear violation of coastal development guidelines and had progressed without a permit.

The National Committee for Cambodia Coastal Management and Development issued a directive yesterday for the Cambodian conglomerate to cease construction of the 40 metre by 15 metre dock that was to be used to ferry passengers to a luxury resort the group is developing on Koh Rong island, 25 kilometres offshore in the Gulf of Thailand. The directive instructed provincial authorities to dismantle the unlicensed structure and oversee the return of the beach to its pristine state.

“The Preah Sihanouk governor is requested to advise the Royal Group to stop construction and restore the area to its original condition,” the announcement reads.

The company will now have to find a new location for the port, ensuring minimal impact to the tourist-friendly beach, and obtain prior permission before going ahead with construction, the announcement says.

According to Sihanoukville City Governor Y Sokleng, the committee had previously given Royal Group two potential locations to build the port – one near the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port and the other in the Tom Nop Rolok district. He said Royal Group had requested instead to construct the port at Otres Beach, and went ahead with construction without waiting for the committee to respond.

“The construction was already 30 to 40 per cent completed, and a meeting will be held to discuss how to demolish the structure,” Sokleng said.

The committee will also look at other illegal constructions in the coastal city and decide the next course of action, he added.

Last November, the government vowed to crack down on coastal hotels and resorts that restricted public access to beaches or constructed illegal encroachments within 50 metres of the shoreline. At the time, Tourism Minister Thong Khon warned that his ministry would 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.

In a Facebook post on January 17, Prime Minister Hun Sen, who visited the city for a holiday late last month, asked local authorities to ensure that there was no illegal construction activity along the beach.

Yun Min, governor of Preah Sihanouk province, said the sole authority to grant permission for coastal construction lay with the national committee, chaired by the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, and that provincial authorities were not authorised to make the call.

“They [Royal Group] cannot build on the area, because I know the committee said the area was for tourist activity, as well as a dolphin zone,” he said. “Any construction or boat traffic is not allowed there based on our master plan.”

Ho Vandy, an adviser for the tourism industry to the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce, said the action was a positive step by the authorities who were following the law and similar steps should be taken with other illegal constructions as well.

“People need to accept this and participate. This action is not only for them [Royal Group],” he said. “If there is an action taken today, then there will be action taken for all.”

Vandy added that the government intervened at the right time as construction was proceeding swiftly. If it had hesitated, it would have been more difficult to take corrective measures.

In 2008, the Cambodian government granted the Royal Group a 99-year concession to develop Koh Rong island. Last December, the group and its, in partnership with a Thailand-based Swiss investor, announced plans to build a $40 million, 148-room five-star hotel on the island, scheduled for completion by December 2016.

Preah Sihanouk province received 1.5 million tourists last year. The Kingdom’s premiere beach destination has seen increasing interest from foreign travellers, reporting 400,000 foreign tourists last year, compared to 360,000 in 2014.

Royal Group did not respond to phone calls yesterday.

MOST VIEWED

  • NagaWorld casinos set to reopen, schools to follow

    NAGACORP Ltd has requested that it be allowed to reopen its NagaWorld integrated resorts in Phnom Penh after the government recently approved casinos to operate again, provided they follow Covid-19 prevention measures set by the Ministry of Health. Mey Vann, the director-general of the Ministry

  • ASEM supports Kingdom’s proposal to postpone meeting amid Covid

    The 13th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM13) scheduled to be held in Cambodia in November has been postponed until mid-2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation press statement released on Saturday said. The decision was made during a two-day meeting

  • Cambodia armed with money laundering laws

    Money laundering will now carry a penalty of up to five years in prison while those convicted of financing terrorists will be jailed for up to 20 years, according to new laws promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni and seen by The Post on Thursday. Comprising nine

  • Schools to be reopened in ‘three stages’

    With guidance from Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, is in the process of reopening schools in three stages. But no timeline has been set, ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha said on Thursday. Soveacha said the first stage will be to

  • Thai border crossings eased

    The Cambodian Embassy in Thailand said in an announcement on Wednesday that Thailand’s government has allowed certain passengers from several countries to enter its borders. The visitors must go back to their country immediately after their duties in Thailand are fulfilled, the embassy said.

  • Gov’t says tourism recovers slightly despite pandemic

    The Ministry of Tourism and the Phnom Penh municipal administration have recognised 33 tourism businesses in the capital which have consistently implemented safety measures for tourists and adhered to the code of conduct issued by the ministry. Recently, the ministry announced that tourism businesses had to

  • Mull ASEAN border opening, PM urges

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that ASEAN launch a scenario for gradually reopening cross-border travel and trade between countries in the region. He said ASEAN has had more success combating Covid-19 compared to other regions. The prime minister’s request was made at the

  • Ministry reports 11 new Covid-19 cases, reiterates vigilance

    Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng has urged people to continue practising virus prevention techniques after 11 people tested positive for Covid-19 within two days after arriving in the Kingdom. Speaking on Sunday, Bun Heng stressed the importance of washing hands, wearing masks or scarves when

  • Koh Rong land ‘belongs to firm’

    Preah Sihanouk Provincial Administration spokesperson Kheang Phearum told The Post on Sunday that the 35ha being bulldozed by Royal Group Co Ltd in Koh Rong belongs to it after it was leased to it for 99 years by the government in 2008. Phearum said the land does

  • Nine on Indonesia flight Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health on Saturday confirmed nine more imported cases of Covid-19. The nine ‒ eight Cambodians and one Indonesian, aged 22 to 26 ‒ arrived in Cambodia on Thursday via a direct flight from Indonesia and are receiving treatment at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hostipal in Phnom Penh.