Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology Lim Kean Hor said Tuesday that he ordered the closure of a large housing development, which was being created by filling in a section of Kob Srov lake, an essential flood-drainage site for northern Phnom Penh.
“I ordered the Kandal Provincial Governor Khim Bo that any filling in of the lake has to stop because the company has no permission to do it,” Lim Kean Hor said by telephone.
Doung Sam Ang, who is in charge of construction at the Long Chhin Resorts site, said his company, which has already created a section of land inside Kob Srov lake measuring around 60 meters wide by 500 meters in length, confirmed that construction had stopped.
On Monday, Doung Sam Ang claimed the company had bought the land from villagers in 1994 and permission for filling in the lake for the residential housing complex had come directly from Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“[Long Chhin Resorts] has no permission and it just got an agreement in principle from the prime minister, then it started to fill the lake,” Lim Kean Hor said.
“Samdech [Hun Sen] just agreed in principle with the company and let the Council for the Development of Cambodia discuss and study it. Then [Long Chhin Resorts] needed to send it back to Samdech [Hun Sen] for final approval,” the minister said.
“But it used this paper to launch its work,” he added.
Lim Kean Hor said that the government intended to review the situation at Kob Srov and Long Chhin Resorts would be told to remove the soil they had put into the lake and return the site to its previous state.
“I definitely will do it and Prime Minister Hun Sen will do it,” Lim Kean Hor added.
Doung Sam Ang, however, said his company would not remove the soil from Kob Srov as they had filled in the lake legally.
Lim Kean Hor reacted to the company with a warning late Tuesday: “Before we had no law but now I have the law with me and I will check all lakes and places filled by dirt and take action against them and they will face the law.”
He Kann, deputy governor of Kandal province, claimed on Tuesday that he knew nothing about the housing development, though the construction is taking place on a section of Kob Srov under Kandal province’s jurisdiction.
“People always have filled soil in the lake by themselves and they never ask for permission from the authorities,” He Kann said, before referring further questions to Khim Bo.
An assistant to Khim Bo said the governor was too busy to speak to a reporter.
On Monday, Tep Sothy, governor of Kandal’s Ponhea Leu district, said he knew of the Kob Srov lake filling and confirmed that the Long Chhin company had permission from the government and “had followed the law.”
Council of Ministers Secretary of State Kann Man said Tuesday: “I think Long Chhin Company is going beyond its plan in filling soil into the lake.”
SRP Secretary-General Mu Sochua called the situation on Kob Srov lake “chaotic.”
“If the company can show that the Prime Minister gave permission, then he must take responsibility for that,” Mu Sochua said.
“If the company were not complying with the law, then [Lim Kean Hor] was correct to shut them down,” she said.