Evictions sweep away Sihanoukville beach businesses

A tourist gets a massage at a beach in Sihanoukville in 2017.
A tourist gets a massage at a beach in Sihanoukville in 2017. Sahiba Chawdhary

The New Year brought a new wave of evictions and development to more than 5 square kilometres on Preah Sihanouk province’s Ochheuteal Beach, though local authorities remain in the dark about what company is behind the development.

The beach is a heavy tourist draw for the coastal provincial capital of Sihanoukville, but Taing Socheat Kroesna, director of the provincial tourism department, said yesterday he did not know the name of the company in charge of the development, nor did he know any particulars about the project.

Prak Visal, the deputy director of the province’s Administration Department, said yesterday that the new project is a co-investment by Cambodian conglomerate Royal Group, headed by tycoon Kith Meng, and a Chinese company that Visal did not know the name of.

Representatives for Royal Group could not be reached for comment yesterday.

 

“Right now, the company is starting to remove the old businesses first, and ending contracts with vendors,” Visal said, adding that demolition of most structures along the beach began around Christmas time and continued through the end of the year. “This doesn’t pose a problem because the evictions are based on the end of rental contracts with business owners,” he added.

Eviction notices were sent to residents in late October, informing them of a January 4, 2018, deadline to vacate the area.

Visal said yesterday he was hopeful the project would draw additional tourists to the coastal town, though he admitted that the project’s details had not yet been submitted to the government for review.

Chiva Ouk, who was forced to close his bar, Rocky Plus, as part of the recent evictions, said that the development was yet another example of Chinese investment forcing local businesses out of Sihanoukville.

“Our landlord said we had to return our businesses, because our lease is up,” said Ouk. “More Chinese investment has been coming into Sihanoukville, and now this land, too, is going to be Chinese.”