Commission to Investigate ‘Shrinking’ Beaches

The chairman of the National Assembly’s culture and tourism commission said Tuesday that he will summon Tourism Minister Thong Khon for questioning over claims that public beaches are being taken over for private use.

CNRP lawmaker Yem Ponhearith, who heads the commission, said he will summon the minister for questioning on November 19 to ask him about the “shrinking” of public beaches.

“We’ve noticed that our public beaches are getting smaller and smaller and some beaches have become private,” Mr. Ponhearith said.

The opposition lawmaker said the commission heard the complaints from locals during its recent work trips to the coast.

“We need to know whether or not tourist developments consider local people, who own the country and deserve to benefit from it,” he said. “[This problem] will also affect the national tourism sector.”

Mr. Ponhearith said the most serious cases of beach cordoning were in Preah Sihanouk province, but he did not elaborate on what exactly was preventing the public from accessing the areas.

Asked how the commission will determine which private entities are responsible for the alleged encroachment, Mr. Ponhearith said it was Mr. Khon’s responsibility to provide an explanation.

“We will not go too deep on this matter, but what we want is for the government to thoroughly protect public beaches for the benefit of the general population,” he said. “It’s too early to say something critical now because we need to meet with the tourism minister for…an explanation first.”

Neither Mr. Khon nor ministry spokesman Tith Chantha could be reached for comment Tuesday.

Mr. Ponhearith said he would also summon the ministers of education, religion and culture—sectors all under his commission’s purview—for questioning by the end of the year.

The CNRP lawmaker has led a campaign this year to protect the “national identity” of culture and tourism in Cambodia, leading an expedition to Bokor Mountain in Kampot province in February to investigate reports that shrines in the jungle had become pilgrimage sites for Vietnamese tourists.

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