Sihanoukville Beach Vendors Given Eviction Reprieve

Source: Khmer Times | Wed, 09 March 2016, by Pov Suy

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CPP lawmaker Lork Kheng (right), a member of the National Assembly’s Commission on Human Rights and Complaints, and CNRP lawmaker Chea Poch (2nd right) speak to vendors living along Preah Sihanouk province’s Otres beach who came to Phnom Penh to submit a petition asking for help from the National Assembly and other institutions. KT/ Chor Sokunthea

The Council of Ministers issued a letter last Saturday asking the Preah Sihanouk provincial authorities to re-examine its decision to order vendors out of Otres, Ochheuteal and Damnak Sdech beaches in Sihanoukville.

The document cited a letter signed by 62 vendors from Otres Beach asking the Council of Ministers to intervene in the decision, complaining that the February 2 announcement ordering them to move for “environmental reasons” by March 13 was made without consulting or negotiating any sort of compensation with them.

Ek Vithean, the beach vendors’ representative, said the substance of the Council of Ministers’ letter is weak at best.

“The letter’s substance is to just ask the provincial authority to consult with the vendors. So, let’s wait and see first,” he said.

Mr. Vithean said the vendors were willing to negotiate with the provincial authorities in order to find a compromise.

“What we want is to have standardized stores built by the authorities in the same areas that we formerly occupied, and we are willing to pay any necessary fees for them. Another possible offering that we would accept is that the government find areas at other beaches which we would clear and on which we would build our own stores,” he added.

Adhoc provincial coordinator Cheap Sotheary said he welcomed the government’s development to clean the beaches, but added that such developments should not affect citizen’s livelihoods.

Provincial governor Yun Min told Khmer Times that citizens should respect the government’s efforts to protect the beaches.

“I would like to ask the people to confide in the government and the authorities. We aren’t trying to destroy the livelihoods of brothers and sisters. So please obey the laws to help us protect our beach,” he said.

On February 18, about 150 vendors and small business-owners from Sihanoukville’s Otres, Ochhueteal and Damnak Sdech beaches traveled to the capital to submit a petition in their defense to various government bodies including the Prime Minister’s Cabinet, the Council of Ministers’ Office and the National Assembly.

Representatives from both parties accepted the petition and said they would follow up with vendors at a later date.

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