Kampot provincial authorities said yesterday they met with the government’s Council for the Development of Cambodia last week to discuss the continuation of the recently halted seafront development project in Boeng Touk commune, adding that the CDC told provincial officials they would support restarting the project.
Kampot Provincial Deputy Governor Heng Vantha said CDC officials visited provincial headquarters Wednesday to discuss the project by Keo Chea Property Development Company, which has been a focal point of a disagreement between provincial authorities and the Agriculture Ministry.
In mid January Kampot Governor Khoy Khun Huor dismissed a request by the ministry that he suspend the project because the company was flouting the conditions of its contract with the CDC. However, reacting to the complaint, local businessman Keo Chea halted the project, which plans to fill 200 hectares of coastal waters for hotels, villas and a port.
“We have had discussions with CDC…and they agreed with the government’s initial principal [decision] to keep the company’s project moving forward,” Mr Vantha said. “Yet we do not know when they will resume filling in the coast. We are waiting for the CDC to get [internal] approval,” he added.
Mr Vantha also said the Agriculture Ministry’s request to provincial authorities was “not right” because “[only] the CDC issues a project’s approval” and “provincial authorities cannot follow the Agriculture Ministry.”
Keo Chea and CDC officials Soun Sitty and Chea Vuthy declined to comment on the project’s status yesterday.
The project, which has so far filled around 60 hectares of shallow coastal waters, has also met resistance from hundreds of villagers from Kep Thmey and Totoeng Tngai villages in Boeng Touk commune who have been protesting against the project since September, as they fear it will destroy local fisheries.
Hallam Goad, an advisor at the housing and land rights NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, which has been supporting local villagers in their protests, said despite the halting of the project villagers were dispirited by the intimidation they faced from authorities and the filling of the waters.
“There is no more coordinated effort to put in a complaint,” he said.
“When the [protest] leaders were called into the commune office, this really de-motivated people,” he added, referring to complaints from villagers and rights groups that police forced some residents in November to thumbprint a statement supporting the project.
“As the [fishing] catch goes down people are looking at their options… We’re hearing people are trying to find [construction] work at the new road up to Bokor Mountain or in fishing [industries] in Sihanoukville,” Mr Goad said.