Although an eviction deadline passed on Sunday for guesthouses, restaurants and bars along Sihanoukville’s popular O’Tres Beach, less than half of the businesses had left as of the evening, with others seeking to negotiate a deal with authorities that would allow them to stay.
Last month, business owners on O’Tres Beach and part of neighboring O’Chheuteal Beach were served with a notice giving them a month to leave the area, with authorities citing environmental concerns for the decision. They were given a firm deadline of March 13, told that because their establishments were on state land and had not been paying property taxes, the government was not required to compensate them for their losses.
However, local authorities have now decided to pay the businesses to leave, saying they will not be forcibly evicted until next week, pending further negotiations. And six of the largest establishments on O’Tres are still hoping to strike a deal during a meeting with Preah Sihanouk provincial governor Yin Min scheduled for today, possibly avoiding eviction altogether.
Leam Pheng, the governor’s secretary, said 12 business owners had agreed to move out after the government paid them $3,500 for their losses, while another eight had put in formal requests for compensation.
“The governor said he will take the requests to the national level to make a decision, and then he will notify the vendors about the decision,” Mr. Pheng said.
He said the six business owners who had not yet agreed to leave would meet with Mr. Min today to discuss the issue. However, he emphasized that the government still planned to make them move.
“Informally, I have heard that they have people behind them who have told them that the amount of compensation should be higher,” Mr. Pheng said.
“They will face losses when we remove their shops next week, because a commission to do this work has already been created and is ready to take action. We won’t do it immediately, though, because we want to provide some time for the vendors to remove their stuff themselves,” he said.
Thy Tay, the manager at SeaGarden Bungalows on O’Tres, said he and the other holdouts hoped today’s meeting with Mr. Min would convince authorities to let them stay.
“Before this, it was just jungle,” Mr. Tay said. “There was no running water, no electricity. Because of us, the place became a popular destination.”
“I hope it’s good. I hope we can stay.”
Mr. Tay warned that if the government did not agree to let them stay, the more than 500 locals affected by the evictions—including business owners, staff and their families—would stage mass protests in Sihanoukville later this week.
© 2016, Kang Sothear. All rights reserved.