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Illegal reclamation carries on

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A view of the beach that has been filled with soil in Preah Sihanouk province’s Stung Hav district. Photo supplied

Illegal reclamation carries on

Despite numerous cases of illegal landfilling coming to light and an order from Prime Minister Hun Sen to put a stop to it, authorities are seemingly powerless to halt illegal beach developments in Preah Sihanouk province.

A Preah Sihanouk beach was filled by a private company despite a written agreement with the provincial authority prohibiting it from further beach filling and despite Hun Sen ordering another private company to restore the area, which had been illegally filled in September.

Cambodian National Research Organisation (CNRO) director Sok Sokhom, who inspected the area with authorities in Stung Hav district’s Tomnup Roloak commune in Preah Sihanouk province, told The Post on Sunday that a company is currently filling a Preah Sihanouk province’s public beach.

The owner had asked permission to repair the O’Touk area but the company filled the beach and sea with land three metres deep, 50 metres wide, and 60 metres long.

“The provincial authority cannot grant rights for private companies to fill the beach, even if properly constructed.

“The O’Touk construction area was filled with land, and the company did not restore the area [after an order from the district authority]. The authority asked the owner to seek permission to develop the area in O’Touk,” he said.

Sokhom said major developments were authorised by the government because they provided social benefits, so the government allows companies to fill beaches. However, recent developments were only authorised at the provincial level because developers were working with the provincial authority.

“The O’Touk construction area was prohibited by the district authority and reported twice. This is the third time so the provincial authority, which includes inter-ministerial officers, inspected the area and found the beach was filled illegally,” he said.

A report on Wednesday by the Stung Hav district authority said the owner did not have legal permission (to carry out any repairs).

Preah Sihanouk provincial hall spokesperson Or Saroeun said on Sunday that the provincial authority visited the beach and took measurements.

“The district and provincial authorities worked together to measure the beach and issued a statement ordering the company to dredge [and restore] the land [on which] they are not permitted to build,” he said.

“From a legal perspective, it is against the law. Our authorities are very forgiving,” he responded when asked about Preah Sihanouk authority’s ineffectiveness in dealing with illegal beach filling.

Royal Academy of Cambodia president Sok Touch said on Saturday: “Chinese companies who come to Cambodia must obey Cambodian laws. The provincial and district governors must follow and enforce the laws.

“Maybe, because companies give them half a million dollars, governors overlooked the issues and allowed them to illegally fill the beach. Government officials point fingers at other. We have laws. We can remove the buildings."

“It is shameful. The CPP [Cambodian People’s Party] won the entire election and need to take responsibility. They cannot blame others. Government officers who were recently promoted to new positions need to serve the people.

“They cannot use their positions to allow companies to violate land illegally. I am a member of the CPP. What I say is true,” Touch said.

Sokhom claimed that beach areas were being illegally filled in Preah Sihanouk province because provincial authorities did not enforce legal action on development companies.

Hence, he asked the provincial governor and relevant authorities to thoroughly carry out inspections after the companies’ applications were approved before permitting them to build.

On September 18, Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction Minister Chea Sophara to inspect Prek Treng – located in Otres commune, Stung Hav district, Preah Sihanouk province.

The area was filled illegally by a private company owned by ruling party Senator Lao Meng Khin and his wife, Choeung Sopheap.

Their company filled a beach without proper permission and was told to restore it to its previous condition.

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