Buildings Near Sihanoukville Beach Targeted for Demolition

Authorities in Preah Sihanouk province on Saturday demolished a building that was under construction in an allegedly banned area along Sihanoukville’s O’Tres Beach and warned that other structures similarly sitting on state land could be next.

The move is the latest in the local government’s on-again-off-again efforts to manage development along one of the beach town’s quieter but increasingly popular stretches of sand.

Deputy provincial governor Srun Sroan said Sunday that his officials had left a warning for the owner about two weeks ago at the construction site to demolish what he had built himself. But they did not receive a reply.

“We used an excavator to destroy the building and the owner did not appear on time, probably because he knew that his building was being constructed illegally on the seaside on state land,” he said of the 13-by-15-meter building.

Mr. Sroan said he was planning to call a meeting with locals who have buildings inside the banned area. But he declined to explain exactly where the banned area was or how many buildings might be affected.

“We are checking to find more illegally constructed buildings, but we have already ordered some owners to stop construction and to come to get [legal] documents,” he said. “I will call a meeting and we will ask them to remove their buildings if they have built them in the banned area.”

Khat Bunna, deputy director of the province’s land management department, said he received a call from Mr. Sroan on Sunday and was told that the banned area extended 25 meters from either side of a stream that stretches along a roughly 2-km path from the beach to O’Tres pagoda.

He said he was also told that the provincial government planned to turn the area into something more like the busier and more developed O’Cheuteal beach next door.

Mr. Bunna said he learned that his own guesthouse, run out of a villa he built near the O’Tres stream in 1999, might also be in danger.

“The deputy provincial governor [Mr. Sroan] told me that he will send his experts to inspect the guesthouse and find out if the building is in the banned area,” he said.

Mr. Bunna said it was the first time he had heard of any ban on construction in the area. “All the people living along the stream have land titles, so the authorities will not be able to evict them without compensation,” he said.

If the provincial government determines that some buildings near O’Tres were sitting illegally on state land, Sihanoukville governor Chin Sarin said it was the previous provincial government’s fault that the buildings were there.

“This is the provincial land management’s fault because it should have known this land was banned, but it still allowed people to build on it,” Mr. Sarin said.

Authorities have made other efforts to scale back existing structures along O’Tres in recent years.

In early 2011, the province ordered 27 restaurants, bars and guesthouses along the beach to roughly halve the size of their properties to make way for a public park. The year before, some businesses were evicted from another stretch of the beach after being compensated.

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