SRP lawmaker Son Chhay has written to Prime Minister Hun Sen expressing concern about resorts planned for six of the country’s islands off the coast of Kampot province and Sihanoukville.
Son Chhay said several people have asked him about the development. “We are worried about islands given to the private investors’ control. We want the government to explain about this clearly because everybody wants to hear how the government will deal with this,” Son Chhay said Monday. “We fear for the natural environment of the islands and our sovereignty.”
Son Chhay said he had not received a reply to his Aug 15 letter.
The government announced last month it was leasing the islands to private companies for development of multi-million dollar resorts. The Council for the Development of Cambodia reported last month that the companies will collectively invest $627 million in the islands. They have one year to prepare development plans, which the CDC must approve.
Government officials downplayed Son Chhay’s concerns, saying any investment helps promote the local economy.
Sihanoukville Governor Say Hak said he welcomes island development because it could attract tourists and create jobs.
“Don’t worry about anything regarding island development. What we are doing is a war against poverty. People need jobs,” Say Hak said.
Kampot Provincial Governor Thach Khorn also said he believed the development of islands will bring prosperity. “Development is not all bad,” he said.
Council of Ministers fisheries expert Touch Seang Tana said development would increase the value of the islands and consequently spur interest in protecting their natural wonders.
“We get job opportunities for local people and attract rich tourists,” Touch Seang Tana said. “If we leave the islands untouched as before, we cannot protect them.”
Several environmental groups contacted Monday said they had no information about the development plans and declined to comment.
(Additional reporting by Joe Tarr)