Phnom Penh Naval Police have been dispatched to keep the popular riverfront promenade on Sisowath Quay free from moored sightseeing riverboats following new orders from City Hall, officers and tour boat operators said Monday.
Around 20 boats have been docking on the riverfront in recent years, catering to tourists eager to pay for trips around the confluence of the Mekong, Bassac and Tonle Sap rivers at sunset.
Naval police official Pes Lim, who led the operation to chase away the tour boats, said the municipality believes the boats detract from the beauty of the city.
“These boats will never, ever come here again,” Pes Lim said. “If they violate this order, the city will fine them,” he said.
Though municipal officials have offered the boat owners a new berth on the riverfront opposite the Council for the Development of Cambodia—a spot several hundred meters from where the promenade ends—boat owners say it is too far from the riverfront tourist zones.
“Even now we have no profit. We sometimes don’t even have one passenger in a whole month,” said Vibal Tes, 35, owner of the Vibal Tour Boat. “I used to have seven tour boats last year, but because of slow business I have only one boat now.”
“The new place has no embankment,” He said. “Tourists won’t want to look to travel on a boat in an ugly and smelly place,” said Pich Yan, owner of the Paris Tourist Boat.
In the decade since tour boats began taking visitors out on river trips, this is the first time boat owners have been forced to move from their riverfront spots, Pich Yan said.