Royal Group plan for Sihanoukville beach cleared of businesses remains a mystery

Flattened makeshift stalls litter the ground after they were torn down by authorities in April 2016 at Ochheuteal Beach. Photo supplied
Flattened makeshift stalls litter the ground after they were torn down by authorities in April 2016 at Ochheuteal Beach. Photo supplied

More than a month after businesses on a prime stretch of Occheuteal Beach were told to pack up and leave, officials in Preah Sihanouk province are still unaware of local conglomerate Royal Group’s plans for the space.

Evictions on the beach began around Christmas time, as business operators who were renting space near Sihanoukville’s central ferry station were told their contracts would be up and they would have to leave by early January.

 

Prak Visal, director of the province’s Administration Department, said early last month that the development was a joint venture by Royal Group, headed by powerful tycoon Kith Meng, and an unknown Chinese company. Reached yesterday, Visal said he had just returned from a mission abroad and still did not know any of the project’s details.

Deputy Provincial Governor Kong Vitanak, the provincial spokesman, said yesterday he was not in charge of the coastal development project and declined to comment.

 

Chhin Seng Nguon, another deputy governor who is in charge of the coastal development project, said the space was “under the management of Kith Meng”, and declined to answer further questions about the plans.

Representatives from Royal Group could not be reached yesterday.

Sihanoukville has become the epicentre of growing tensions between Chinese investors and Cambodian business owners in recent months. Complaints from residents in the coastal capital, who say they are being pushed out by Chinese investors, prompted the government to establish a working group to address the topic and even drew comment from the usually tight-lipped Chinese Embassy earlier this month.