In an ongoing land dispute on Sihanoukville’s Serendipity Beach, municipal officials on Wednesday demarcated an area that Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet had labeled terra nullis until surveyed by an independent government ministry, witnesses and officials said.
Sihanoukville Governor Say Hak confirmed Wednesday that municipal officials were measuring the area for a report the municipality was preparing for the prime minister’s Cabinet.
Say Hak also reinforced his long-held stance that the land belongs exclusively to claimant Oknha Kong Triv and not to the owners of eight guesthouses currently residing on the land and fighting eviction attempts.
“Those guesthouses were built illegally,” Say Hak said.
The guesthouse owners had been slated for eviction Feb 14, in an order signed by Say Hak on the authority of the Council of Ministers. But an eleventh-hour injunction signed by the prime minister’s Cabinet ordered the eviction be delayed until the land is measured by the Ministry of Land Management.
Cabinet spokesman Bun Kheng said Wednesday that he did not know why the Sihanoukville Municipality was involved in the investigation.
Im Chhun Lim, Minister of Land Management, deferred all questions Wednesday to his cabinet. Secretary of state for the ministry, Chea Sophara, said Wednesday that he knew nothing about the dispute in Sihanoukville.
Owner of the Cloud 9 guesthouse Patrick McGarvey alleged Wednesday that at least one of the men in the demarcating party was an employee of Kong Triv.
McGarvey was arrested by military police on Feb 3 for interfering with a group of Kong Triv employees who were spray-painting the letters ‘KT’ on his bungalows.
McGarvey was detained and allegedly forced to thumbprint a contract saying that he would not stop Kong Triv’s men from trespassing in the future.
Contacted Wednesday, Kong Triv denied that his employees were involved in Wednesday’s demarcation. “I follow the law [and] await for the result from the government,” he said.