The Preah Sihanouk provincial administration has recommended those whose houses were torn down for encroaching on canals to seek social land concessions from the authorities.

Provincial deputy governor Cheav Vichheak told The Post on Tuesday that Sihanoukville has five main canals with a cumulative length of 30km which were set to be restored.

However, 1,090 structures encroached on the canals to varying degrees, of which nearly 300 have been demolished.

“The government and Preah Sihanouk provincial administration alike have recommended residents to apply for social land concessions.

“Provincial governor [Kuoch Chamroeun] will examine the possibility [for a concession] for those whose homes were entirely built on the canal and have no other place to live in, because they are destitute.

“But those who have homes away from the canal – or have secretly expanded their legally obtained land over the canal – will receive no mercy. We will request that their homes be demolished,” said Vichheak.

He said the provincial administration has torn down more than 20 per cent of the offending structures since early last month. Nearly 30 per cent of the five canals have been restored.

Preah Sihanouk Provincial Hall spokesman Kheang Phearum said the provincial administration demolished the illegal constructions following several warnings.

The owners were ordered to tear them down on their own accord in order to restore the canals and avert flooding during the rainy season, he said, noting last year’s floods which resulted in three deaths and thousands of families affected.

Early last month, the provincial administration issued an ultimatum to residents to dismantle unauthorised constructions by January 23.

It noted that they were affecting the irrigation system and impeding an infrastructure project involving the repaving and upgrading of 34 roads in Sihanoukville.

Cambodian National Research Organisation director Sok Sokhom lauded the move, calling on the provincial governor to remain vigilant over the case.

Those who really need them should be granted land concessions, he said.

“In the past, any amount of rainfall in Sihanoukville would amount to flooding in the city. It was in part caused by the houses and stalls encroaching on the canals and nearby pavements.

“If the provincial administration doesn’t implement the toughest measures to demolish the constructions and restore the canals, when the rainy season comes, it will surely flood the city again,” Sokhom said.

He said the residents had no land titles and that they had built their structures illegally. The authorities demolished them pursuant to the provincial master plan.