Preah Sihanouk Governor Delays Removal of Beach Vendors

The governor of Preah Sihanouk province said Tuesday that he will delay the removal of 32 food vendors from O’Chheuteal Beach after reading—on Facebook—a letter purportedly issued to him by the National Assembly’s human rights commission asking him to hold off.

On April 1, provincial governor Chhit Sokhon gave the vendors two weeks to remove their makeshift stalls from the beach in a bid to beautify the area.

“The authority needs to manage the beach because if we let them continue selling food here it will damage the beach,” he said Tuesday.

The disgruntled vendors reacted to the order by writing to National Assembly President Heng Samrin on April 6 asking him to intervene and postpone their removal.

Phoeuk Sokhen, a representative for the vendors, said the governor was attempting to remove them from the area because a plot of land behind their tents belongs to the Sokha Hotel and the company wants to make the beach private with Mr. Sokhon’s blessing.

“We can join in keeping the area clean,” she said. “The authorities should not favor the company and make people lose their livelihoods.”

She said the National Assembly’s human rights commission responded to the vendors’ letter by writing to the governor on April 8, requesting that he review his decision to remove them. Ms. Sokhen, who provided a reporter with a copy of the letter, said she traveled to Phnom Penh on Monday to pick it up from the commission in person.

Mr. Sokhon said Tuesday that he had not yet received the letter, but saw a copy of it on Facebook and decided to postpone the vendors’ removal while he reviews his decision and reports back to the commission.

“We will delay the removal because I want to avoid any conflict,” he said.

The governor denied that he was trying to help Sokha Hotel effectively privatize the beach.

“According to the law, and my own opinion, it will remain a public beach,” he said.

Sok Kong, who owns the Sokha Hotel, could not be reached.

According to Ms. Sokhen and Cheab Sotheary, the provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, the land behind the vendors’ tents was given to the hotel by the provincial government in 2006 but has yet to be developed.

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