PREAH SIHANOUK PROVINCE
PREAH Sihanouk provincial officials said Tuesday that they still plan to evict more than 70 businesses from a 1.5-kilometre stretch of Otres beach in Sihanoukville today unless they leave on their own, prompting criticism from rights groups, as well as those who stand to be affected.
For the second time this year, the owners of guesthouses, bars, small shops and restaurants in the area were told last week that they would be forced from their land to make way for a municipal garden. A similar eviction notice was issued in January but never enforced.
Preah Sihanouk Deputy Governor Phai Phan said Tuesday that the eviction would go ahead, and that the complaints of businesses, many of which plan to stay and protest, were falling on deaf ears. “The eviction on Otres beach cannot be avoided because this is an order from high-level authorities to develop this area,” he said.
Choa Philip, the owner of a small restaurant that is slated for eviction, said all business owners had decided to stay put and protest after receiving no response from local authorities to a letter sent last Monday requesting a delay and an alternate location for their businesses.
“After all the business owners had a meeting on Thursday last week, we still decided not to move from [the beach] because this is our life,” he said.
Rainer Deyhle, owner of Cinderella Dive Resort and Beach Bungalows, said authorities should not have taken money for business licences if they were planning to evict people, and questioned whether the garden was simply a front for a new resort project.
“In a country like Germany, someone who did this in the government would go to prison the same day that he sent the bulldozers in,” he said.
But Richie Gover, who sold his bar at Otres beach earlier this year, said many business owners should have been expecting the move.
“You know they’ve got nothing to complain about, really. They had plenty of warning. They’re saying we needed time to find other stuff, but you know, I had time. We’ve known about this for three years,” he said.
Naly Pilorge, director of the rights group Licadho, said, however, that those affected had been given no time to meet with authorities to discuss how they could avoid huge economic losses. “Many people have now fled; the situation is very chaotic, with very little time for any preparation or to pack belongings,” she said by text message Tuesday.
WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY DAVID BOYLE
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