O’Touk area development ‘a concern’

P. Sihanouk: Civil society organizations monitoring land disputes in Preah Sihanouk province continue to voice concerns over the environmental impact of developing public land after permission was granted to reclaim a site in the O’Touk area to build a boat terminal.

Sok Sokhom, the director of the Cambodian National Research Organization, which closely monitors the situation in the coastal region, said he supported development in the province, but he asked the provincial administration to not allow development that impacted state property. Development should only take place in areas developers own, he said.

Sokhom said a meeting between the provincial governor and 13 civil society organizations on Friday covered several ongoing issues in the province.

He said he raised the problem of private individuals continuing to reclaim public beaches for development.

“Regarding the O’Touk case, the provincial governor said he had not given permission to reclaim the land. However, it was the district governor who gave permission to fill the beach.”

“The provincial governor said the land reclamation was under the authority of national officials, not sub-national ones. However, it was the Stung Hav district governor’s mistake to allow a private company to fill the beach. He gave his approval to the letter of request,” Sokhom said.

On Friday, provincial governor Yun Min responded to the development of the O’Touk area.

“Regarding the filling of the sea to construct a boat terminal in Stung Hav district, the provincial authority has asked the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction to allow the National Committee for Coastal Management and Development to conduct an impact assessment study,” he said.

Min said any project 3,000sqm or larger comes under the remit of national authorities, while projects between 500sqm and 3,000sqm are the responsibility of the provincial authority. Smaller projects fall to the district or city authority, he said.

However, Min said he had previously expressed his support for the O’Touk development because it is an important location for fishing boats.

According to Sokhom, the initial request to the district authority was only to repair the boats there, but they continued to fill the sea and, despite not having permission from authorities, there had been no attempts to stop them.

Provincial authority spokesman Y Thearin declined to comment, saying he had not been fully briefed on the matter.

Stung Hav district governor Chhay Sokunda told on Monday that the provincial authority had inspected the O’Touk site and referred the case to the National Committee for Coastal Management and Development to make a decision.

“The case was sent to National Committee for Coastal Management and Development. The only issue was that part of the site was not private land, so the provincial authority asked the owner to rent the land from the government.

“Any area which is privately owned, they can develop. Anywhere outside the private area needs to be rented from the government,” Sokunda said.