Cambodian environmental activists have called for the demolition of a shuttered Chinese-owned casino accused of polluting an adjacent beach, saying that if the structure is not torn down it will likely be reopened at a later date.
The Jin Ding Hotel and Casino located on Preah Sihanouk province’s Koh Rong Samloem Island, a popular tourist destination, was ordered to close in May because it was operating without a license and was releasing untreated sewage directly into the sea.
Other violations charged against Jin Ding and leading to its closure included the playing of loud music on the beach and the promotion of illegal online betting games, sources told RFA in earlier reports.
The petition now filed by the Cambodia-based group Mother Nature with court officials in Preah Sihanouk province calls for the casino’s complete destruction, citing repeated delays by Cambodian authorities to fulfill promises to tear it down.
Speaking to RFA’s Khmer Service on Tuesday, Mother Nature activist Long Kunthea said provincial officials have been slow and unwilling to implement the law, remove structures from the site, and bring the casino’s owner to court.
“I think that authorities have been relaxing their enforcement of the law and have been moving much too slowly, because from May until now in September they haven’t moved on this and say only that they are waiting for permission to proceed,” she said.
If provincial officials ignore the environmental group’s petition and continue to allow the resort’s structures to stand, young Cambodians will march in Preah Sihanouk to demand that authorities do their job, Long Kunthea said.
No date set
Also speaking to RFA, spokesman for the Preah Sihanouk provincial court Kheang Phearum said that authorities have not yet set a date to remove casino structures, saying that the resort is in any case no longer in operation.
“Since provincial authorities closed the casino, it has been inactive, so no action has been taken so far,” he said, adding, “We should let the relevant departments work on this.”
Chinese investment has flowed into Sihanoukville in recent years, but Cambodians regularly chafe at what they call unscrupulous business practices and unbecoming behavior by Chinese businessmen and residents.
A report by the AFP news agency in January on how Sihanoukville had become a “sizeable gambling playground” for Chinese tourists said at least 50 Chinese-owned casinos were operating in the province.
Reported and translated by Pheap Aun for RFA’s Khmer Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.