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Island casino’s fate to be decided

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Deputy provincial governor Mang Sineth headed a team of specialised officers and other authorities to visit Jinding Hotel and Casino on Friday and order the casino to cease operating. Photo supplied

Island casino’s fate to be decided

A preah Sihanouk provincial official said on Monday that the administration would request approval from the Ministry of Environment and the National Committee for Coastal Management and Development to dismantle a Chinese casino on Koh Rong Sanloem.

Jinding Hotel and Casino was ordered to be shut down by a group of officials for a third time late last week.

It was originally ordered to close on March 11 after authorities claimed it had flushed raw sewage into the sea, made excessive noise, possessed an expired business licence and was constructed on the beach without permission.

Provincial Hall spokesman Kheang Phearum told The Post on Monday that the casino is located on National Park land under the management of the Ministry of Environment and the National Committee for Coastal Management and Development and, as such, permission must be granted by those institutions before it can be dismantled.

“The first step is that we have requested the owner to shut it down. Regarding the dismantling of the building, the provincial administration will decide how to proceed,” he said.

Phearum said recently that Jinding’s owner, a Chinese national named Zhou Jianhua, had defied the authorities’ instructions to close the casino and had continued to secretly run a gambling operation.

On May 24, deputy provincial governor Mang Sineth headed a team of specialised officers and other authorities to visit the premises and once again order the casino to cease operating.

Phearum said following this order, Jinding had now closed. He said if Jianhua does not remove the structure himself, the authorities will dismantle it with the owner covering the cost.

Provincial Department of Environment director Samuth Sothearith said the authorities are working step by step towards demolishing the building.

“We are working on the matter. When a joint working group went to inspect it, we found that it wasn’t operating anymore. As to how to proceed now, the committee will decide what to do at a meeting with senior leadership,” Sothearith said.

Koh Rong Sanloem commune chief Chhoeun Chantha said that a Chinese national had rented the site early last year and that a restaurant had existed there for several years.

“A Chinese national rented the land. It was originally a restaurant on the beach – a simple restaurant – then the Chinese man converted it into a casino,” Chantha said.

Cheap Sotheary, the provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said the provincial authorities could enforce the dismantling of the casino without permission from the national level because it was deemed an illegal construction on the beach.

He said failure to enforce the law was the reason some Chinese nationals were undaunted by the local authorities and Cambodian laws.

“I have seen in the past that our authorities, even those at the national level, seem to strongly protect the interests of investors,” Sotheary said.

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