Owners Cling to O’Tres Beach Against Eviction Tide

Preah Sihanouk provincial authorities yesterday gave businesses one more week to pack up and leave O’Tres beach, while owners said that during a meeting at the governor’s office they were offered compensation in return for moving before July 12, according to business owners and a rights group.

The provincial development committee agreed to pay $3,500 to each owner of a bar, restaurant or guesthouse then $1000 to every vendor who occupied a stretch of beach but had not built upon it, said restaurant owner Sar Kem.

“We still will not move because the compensation is very small,” Mr Kem said. Businesspeople are demanding $5,000 for establishments and $2,500 for empty beach used for vending, Mr Kem added. “We want the provincial authority to give us the land they do not develop to continue our businesses.”

Chan Chamroeun, provincial monitor for rights group Adhoc, said he participated in the meeting with Provincial Cabinet director Sok Phorn and deputy Preah Sihanouk city governor Chheng Leang.

“I think it is a positive move that the authority allowed businesspeople to discuss with them to resolve the case,” Mr Chamroeun said.

About one third of the businesses on O’Tres beach are foreign-owned, but only Khmer owners are allowed to negotiate with officials on this issue, said Joel Faure, owner of O’Tres Nautica boat rental.

The last provincial authority eviction deadline passed on Wednesday, but business owners were not forced from the popular and largely undeveloped beach.

A previous letter signed by provincial governor Sboang Sarath last month ordered business owners to move from Prek Treng beach, Stung Hav district and O’Tres Beach. Government plans to clean up the coastline by developing a tourist park on 1,500 meters of the soon-to-be-cleared O’Tres Beach were announced in January.

            (Additional reporting by Alice Foster)

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