Sihanoukville Beaches Get Public Access

All beaches in Sihanoukville must be fully open to public access, including the currently guest-only beach in front of the Sokha Beach Resort, the National Committee for Cambodia Bay Management and Development decided at a meeting on Monday.

The meeting at the Land Management Ministry in Phnom Penh was convened to discuss the impasse in plans to redevelop the beaches, which is currently stalled after attempts to evict “anarchic” beachfront businesses met with resistance.

“For the beaches in front of hotels such as Sokha hotel, we will allow [hotels] to manage them, but they have to open them for the public to enjoy the same as their clients. It is a state beach,” said Tourism Minister Thong Khon, a committee member, after the meeting.

Confusion has followed the city’s announcement in February that all beachfront businesses on O’Tres Beach and parts of neighboring O’Chheuteal Beach would be demolished because they were encroaching on public property. A deadline given by authorities has come and gone without any evictions on O’Tres, while 95 shacks and a restaurant were torn down along O’Chheauteal Beach in April.

Mr. Khon said on Monday’s meeting had helped refine the government’s plan for Sihanoukville, albeit without a time frame attached. Businesses currently closer than 50 meters to the water will be required to demolish their existing structures, he said, but they will be able to rebuild farther away, so long as they do so following new design guidelines.

These guidelines will be determined by the Land Management Ministry, which is currently holding a competition to come up with locally inspired designs for entrance gates to each of the city’s beaches, he added.

Mick Spencer, a Sihanoukville Tourism Association board member and owner of the local travel agency ANA Travel & Tours, said the multiple announcements about beachfront development from representatives of the local and national government—sometimes conflicting—hindered long-term planning and development by local businesses.

“It’s like an ax hanging over their heads,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Peter Ford)

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