O’Tres Beach Business Owners Told To Take $4,000 and Go

Some businesses agreed to leave O’Tres Beach yesterday after Preah Sihanouk provincial authorities ordered their eviction again and offered greater compensation, provincial officials said.

Provincial authorities had previously ordered guesthouse and bar owners to vacate the beach to make way for a park, but the eviction deadline passed last week as business operators asked for more compensation.

Owners said yesterday that some businesses moved from the 1,500-meter stretch of beach, but others refused to give in to the increasing pressure to leave.

According to provincial Cabinet chief Sok Phorn, all beachfront business owners agreed yesterday to ac­cept $4,000 and vendors on empty land accepted $1,500 in return for leaving the beach.

“The money paid to them is not compensation but a financial contribution…. They must evict because it is public land,” Mr Phorn said.

A company called O’Tres Man­agement owned by Lou Sokun will develop a tourist park on the soon-to-be-cleared beach, he said.

Four to five restaurant owners packed up their businesses and left the beach yesterday afternoon, ac­cording to restaurant owner Sar Kem, who is still holding out. The eviction deadline for the rest is now Monday, he added.

Mr Kem said he felt pressured into taking the money and leaving, because if he refuses he may end up with nothing. “If we do not respect them, the authority will evict us and we will not have the compensation,” he said.

However, another restaurant owner, Aun Socheata, said that she and others still considered the compensation too low and would wait for police to forcibly evict them.

“I still want to sell there. I don’t want to move…. Those who agreed to be evicted are rich, but others do not want to move because we are very poor,” Ms Socheata said.

The Belgian owner of Golden Sunset resort, Gos Stier, said that the problem was not the money lost but the destruction of a growing tourist industry.

“It’s a disaster…. I feel like I lost years of my life investing in Cambodia,” Mr Stier said.

   (Additional reporting by Alice Foster)

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