Casino Planned On Minority Land in R’kiri

A Cambodian company has be­gun buying land to build a resort, golf course and casino on 150 hectares in Ratanakkiri province’s remote O’Yadaw district, an area that is currently home to many ethnic minorities, officials said Tuesday.

Ratanakkiri provincial cabinet chief Nab Bun Heng said the Coun­cil of Ministers gave Try Pheap Im­port and Export Co Ltd permission to construct the entertainment re­sort in Paknhai commune—complete with a casino, hotel, golf course and sport facility—in 2005.

Development of the complex next to the Vietnamese border has not yet started, but the firm has been buying land in the area and villagers have agreed to sell, he said.

“The company wants the resort to be like the resort casinos along the Thai border in Poipet,” Nab Bun Heng added.

A casino in Pakthom village will primarily cater to Vietnamese cros­sing the border from Vietnam’s Gia Lai province, he said, adding that Cambodians will be forbidden from gambling.

“Only Vietnamese would gamble in the casino,” he said.

Ratanakkiri Provincial Governor Muong Poy confirmed that the Council of Ministers gave Try Pheap Import and Export permission to develop the remote gambling resort.

A 500-square-meter commercial center, built with $290,000 from the Vietnamese government, was completed in the same commune earlier this year, Nab Bun Heng said.

The center is slated to house a market, warehouses and factories, though it currently remains un­used, he said.

Provincial authorities have re­quested that the commune’s border crossing be upgraded to an in­ternational border checkpoint to help facilitate trade between Cam­bodia and Vietnam, he added.

Kham Kang, O’Yadaw deputy district governor and a member of the Jarai ethnic minority, said he is happy with recent developments in the area. Locals, he said, have not opposed the resort.

“The company would turn this into a thriving area,” he said.

“There would be plenty of em­ployment for ethnic people,” and education and opportunity will come with the development, he added. “I don’t want to wear a ping,” he said, referring to the traditional Jarai loincloth. “I want to wear trousers and jeans.”

Try Pheap, who officials said heads Try Pheap Import and Export, could not be reached for comment.

SRP lawmaker Yim Sovann said he opposed the casino as it was an inappropriate way of making mon­ey. He was also doubtful that the ban on Cambodians gambling there would be adhered to.

“The casino will create a social crisis,” he said.

Yim Sovann also warned that the casino could spell the demise of the area’s ethnic minority cultures.

“The new culture would be easily absorbed and would affect the traditions of ethnic minorities,” he said.

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