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Activists urge Preah Sihanouk authorities to restore beach

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Part of Prek Treng beach was filled with land and rocks in 2018. Cambodian National Research Organisation

Activists urge Preah Sihanouk authorities to restore beach

Some 10 environmental activists from Phnom Penh universities have urged Preah Sihanouk provincial authorities to restore the part of Prek Treng beach which a private company filled in September, while the governor claimed the firm had already been ordered to do so.

The activists warned that if the authorities do not restore the beach, they will do it themselves.

The landfilling, in Village 4 in Stung Hav district's Otres commune, was done by a company belonging to Choeung Sopheap, better known as Yeay Phu, who is the wife of ruling party Senator Lao Meng Khin.

In a video posted on Facebook on Friday, the activists claimed the beach remained in the same condition and no action had been taken to restore the area. They said the authorities had failed to act on a previous order from Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“Today, environmental activists filmed a video clip for Preah Sihanouk provincial authorities for the second time."

"If the provincial authorities continue to fail to take action against the company owned by Choeung Sopheap, known as Yeay Phu, that reclaimed the land at Prek Treng beach, we will inspect the area one more time and [then] personally restore the beach ourselves,” it said.

In September last year, the prime minister ordered Deputy Prime Minister Chea Sophara, who is also Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction and chairman of the National Committee on Coastal Area Management and Development (NCCMD), to inspect the area.

He also ordered provincial authorities to demand the company immediately restore the beach to its original condition.

Provincial governor Yun Min told The Post on Sunday that after Sophara's inspection, authorities had ordered the company to restore the beach.

“The beach filling in Prek Treng took place in two stages. The first stage happened in 2000, while the second phase occurred in 2018. After Minister Chea Sophara’s inspection, the company restored the filled beach."

“The land [filled in 2000] was completely restored. That land was owned by [the company] since 1998-2000 and the trees they planted [when they restored the area] have now grown bigger."

“I reported to Chea Sophara already regarding this issue. You can relay this information to the environmental activists. As governor of the province, I already ordered them to restore the land,” Min said.

Pheng Sreysor, the activists' representative, told The Post their inspection of the site revealed that the beach had not been restored, but the company had attempted to cover the reclaimed area with sand, so it looked like a natural beach.

“Nothing has been removed or restored. However, our group has noticed a strategy intended to deceive the public."

"The reclaimed land that we filmed in our first video is still there. But this time, we noticed that they have covered it with sand."

"People unfamiliar with what has occurred would not be able to notice that the beach has been filled with rocks,” she said.

Sreysor said the provincial authorities' inaction shows they have no intention of solving the problem and are merely delaying the activists.

“The prime minister's order was issued months ago. There still no solution. They just claim experts are looking at the issue."

"We wonder how long it takes to review [the situation] or if they are waiting until the company has a legal land title covering the area," she said.

Because of the provincial authority’s perceived inaction, they do not intend to wait much longer. They will themselves follow the prime minister's order to restore the area.

“It is not difficult . . . We just need to remove the rocks and fill the vacant space with sand. It's not hard. We'll just use the same machinery that they used,” she said.

Local community representative You Veasna also told The Post that the beach had not been restored, and the company has built fences around the area.

“I pass that area every day . . . The land remains the same. About two months after NCCMD visited the area, they built fences surrounding the property. The provincial authority has taken no action to address the issue,” he said.

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