Islanders evicted: Preah Sihanouk administration evicts Koh Rong Sanloem residents and business owners – Khmer Times

Residents, traders and beach resort operators in Koh Rong Sanloem, an island 25km off Sihanoukville with Pristine white beaches, clear turquoise ocean waters, and a tropical jungle wilderness, have been told to move out.

Island residents will be given land on the mainland while businesses have been informed that their occupancy of island property is illegitimate.

Long Dimanche, Preah Sihanouk provincial deputy governor, admitted yesterday that provincial authorities travelled to Koh Rong Sanloem on January 27 to deliver eviction notices to the resorts and other business places.

Dimanche said the evictions follow the government’s decision to offer Koh Rong Sanloem for development by private companies.

“The investment project is ongoing but people have been living and doing business here and saying they have a right to occupy land here. So, the development project was stopped for a while.

“This new year, the provincial authority has decided to take action.

We must evict businesses from the island and give the land to private companies for development without impediments as the government has already approved the development.

“Evictions by provincial authorities are legal because all the island is state land, which no one can sell or claim,” said Dimanche.

Dimanche added that provincial authorities will provide compensation to citizens who are affected by the development project.

“They all understand the situation after we explained them. We don’t know details about the compensation yet,” he said.

Dimanche said it is likely that island residents could be compensated with land elsewhere.

A resort owner on crescent-shaped Saracen Bay who declined to be identified, said he received a provincial administration letter dated September 29, 2021, stating that the government has contracted 1,124 hectares of Koh Rong Sanloem to Emario Shonan Marine Cooperation Ltd, and 1,066 hectares to Koh Rong Sanloem Island Resort Co Ltd, for development.

An excavator at work in Koh Rong Sanloem. Koh Rong City Hall

The letter added that the remainder of the island remains under the control of the provincial administration to establish a conservation area to protect the island’s natural resources.

Tobias Ziegler, owner of the Moonlight Resort located on Saracen Bay, said that on January 27 Preah Sihanouk provincial authorities ordered him and 11 other individuals who own resorts, restaurants and other businesses on Koh Rong Sanloem, to vacate their premises by February 6.

“I didn’t agree with this order,” he said. “It is unfair. I started this investment with nothing, and I helped Koh Rong Sanloem become a world-famous destination. I refuse to leave,” he said.

“We don’t know what is happening, or whom to contact regarding this situation. When we tried to confront the authorities, they referred us to contact Preah Sihanouk Provincial Hall. But nobody there is willing to meet with us.

“I have been doing business here since 2014 and I have a contract for 20 more years from today to continue. Before our huge investments, no tourists came to the islands. We have supported our staff and their families for the last 10 years,” he said.

Ziegler said he was told if the business owners don’t remove their premises and move out on time, authorities will use bulldozers to tear down the businesses to make way for the planned development.

Koh Rong Sanloem is Koh Rong’s stunning sister island and the Saracen Bay area is the most developed and sought after by tourists for its peaceful laid-back atmosphere.

It is reported that there are two villages on Koh Rong Sanloem: M’Pai Bay (in the north) and Koh Rong Sanloem Phumi Kang Khnong (in the south).

There is also a small hamlet in the south-west (called Phumi Kang Krau, which translate to “Village on the outside”). Most locals live from fishing and small-scale crop cultivation.

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