The Preah Sihanouk Provincial Hall ordered the demolition on Monday of two Chinese-owned steel-framed buildings on Otres Beach I in Stung Hav district’s Otres commune that were found to have encroached on the public beach.
Provincial hall spokesperson Kheang Phearum told The Post on Tuesday that new provincial governor Kuoch Chamroeun had ordered relevant authorities to strictly inspect construction standards in the province and act against development projects that encroach on state property.
Phearum said the authority completely levelled one steel-framed structure and allowed the owner of the other to voluntarily dismantle it by an unspecified deadline.
“Local vendors had leased the locations to Chinese nationals who constructed new structures differently from the original plans. There were only kiosks made from wood in the area, but after leasing the kiosks to foreigners, the new tenants built solid structures using steel frames."
“The constructions were unlawful and not allowed to be rebuilt because the locations are on state land,” he said.
Phearum said the authorities had so far inspected construction standards of buildings at more than 100 sites. He did not provide exact figures for construction projects in the province, saying only that their inspection was ongoing while reports were being prepared for national-level authorities.
Provincial tourism department director Taing Sochet Kresna said solid structures are not permitted on the beaches, while old structures are allowed to stay but required to maintain their original state until further notice.
“Otres is being made a model beach for the Sea Festival next year. So the provincial administration needs to maintain order, beautify the beach and protect the environment. New constructions will not be allowed to exist anymore,” he said.
The strict inspection of construction standards in the province followed the tragic collapse of a seven-storey steel-framed building in Sihanoukville on June 22, when 28 people were killed and 26 injured. The painstaking rescue operation took four days to complete.
The tragedy led to the resignation of provincial governor Yun Min and the removal of Nhem Vanda from his position as first vice-president of the National Committee for Disaster Management for “lacking responsibility and telling a lie”.
On Monday, Vanda’s successor Kun Kim said the committee was preparing manpower and rescue tools to be based in the province to prevent a delay in future rescue operations.
Kim, who is also the Senior Minister in charge of Special Missions, said during a medal-conferment ceremony for the nearly 500 joint forces who took part in the four-day search and rescue operation that the province would no longer have to wait for rescue supplies transported from afar.
“Sihanoukville has seen rapid development, and many problems have emerged especially construction-related issues. That warrants authorities and specialised forces to pay close attention to construction quality in order to avert another disaster,” he said.
Cheap Sotheary, the provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said the authorities had previously made new vendors on Otres dismantle their stalls to make way for the development of the beach, while old vendors were allowed to continue their business through state land rental.
“We don’t know how the authorities are handling the issue. But what we see are many high-rise constructions that encroach on beaches while other structures continue to be built."
“Small vendors, meanwhile, are not as fortunate, as their stalls have been dismantled on grounds that they were built illegally on public land,” Sotheary claimed.