Preah Sihanouk provincial authorities are urging people to report unscrupulous attempts to charge for the use of beaches and other public spaces, as well as the misuse of the granite pavements for conducting business or parking.

The call comes after numerous complaints were received of opportunists attempting to charge between 50,000 and 80,000 riel ($12.50-$20) on New Year’s Eve for the renting of mats and chairs for use in public areas.

Provincial Hall stressed that the use of all public beaches and areas is free.

“The visiting and use of all public beaches and spaces is free of charge for everybody, with people welcome to bring mats or tents with which to enjoy the scenery and have food.

It also called on the people to stop using the city’s granite sidewalks for business, the storing of goods or parking, as this caused cracks in the surface, affecting order and damaging the aesthetics of the city.

“The granite pavements installed by the Coastal Management Committee to heighten the appearance of public streets are only for pedestrians, joggers, wheelchair users and cyclists.

“Please join us in protecting all public streets and beaches, and maintaining the cleanliness, appearance and environment of the city,” the provincial hall said.

Provincial Hall’s Planning and Investment Department director Kheang Phearum told The Post on January 4 that the private use of sidewalks, roads and beaches designated by the provincial administration as public spaces was not permitted.

He said the misuse of public spaces and infrastructure created a negative image, with authorities at all levels having an obligation to tackle the small number of traders using it for business or demanding money from tourists.

“These measures are needed because public spaces should be for the benefit of the public, with the granite sidewalks not there for the exhibition of goods for sale, while untidy tables, chairs and mats and discarded litter spoil the image of the city for everyone.

“Such activities are inappropriate and unethical, and the use of public spaces for personal gain is even more wrong,” Phearum said.

San Chey, executive director of the NGO Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, said the introduction of measures to ensure the upkeep of infrastructure for attracting greater numbers of tourists was positive.

However, he said he wanted to see appropriate solutions to the problems faced by those in the informal economy, with them given acceptable opportunities to conduct business.

“Small traders in the informal economy also have a hard time doing business. In Preah Sihanouk province, there has been a lot of discussion between policymakers and workers in the informal economy.

“It is therefore important to look at what measures are being put in place and how these affect them,” he said.

According to the Ministry of Tourism, more than two million tourists travelled over the two days of New Year, with Preah Sihanouk province the second most popular destination after Phnom Penh with more than 300,000 visitors.