A newly opened Chinese hotel and casino on an island near Cambodia’s port city of Sihanoukville has been pouring raw sewage into the sea, ruining the beauty of a local beach, island resort owners and environmental activists say.
The Jin Ding Hotel and Casino, which registered to do business on Koh Rong Samloeum Island in April 2018 and opened only recently, is now a major cause of concern for island residents, guesthouse owner Adam Kovac told RFA’s Khmer Service.
“Every time I walk by the casino, I can see that something is going wrong there,” Kovac said. “There is a lot of mess, and a lot of dirt in the water underneath the casino.”
“I guess they are dumping some stuff that is not supposed to go into the sea,” Kovac said.
When he first arrived on Koh Rong Samloeum, the island “was like a paradise,” with tourists coming to enjoy “the amazing color of the water,” Kovac said.
“But now, we don’t like it there, and we won’t go there, and this is going to affect businesses [in the area],” he said.
“We need to stop this right now, so it won’t be happening anymore.”
'What will you do?'
In a recent video produced by the Cambodian NGO Mother Nature that shows sewage flowing out of the Jin Ding casino and into the sea, environmental activists Long Sokun and Leang Sopheary urge provincial authorities to take action to curb the pollution.
“Have you ever visited this site?” they ask, addressing themselves directly to provincial governor Yun Min.
“And what will you do when Chinese sewage released into the sea affects the island’s beauty and hygiene, and leads to a decline in tourism?”
“We hope you will not let this beautiful island become a second Sihanoukville,” the activists say.
Reached by RFA for comment, Sihanoukville provincial environment department head Samuth Sothearith declined to discuss the issue, saying he was in a meeting, while calls to Jin Ding casino manager Zhou Jianhua rang unanswered.
However, Cambodian Ministry of Environment spokesperson Neth Pheaktra said on Friday that after being alerted to the situation on the island, his ministry will now inspect the casino and “take action accordingly.”
“First we will provide technical consultation to the casino, but if we see serious violations we will fine them and educate them according to the law,” he said.
Surge in investment
Meanwhile, a surge in Chinese investment and in the numbers of migrant workers in the city of Sihanoukville itself has already left local beaches polluted and Cambodian residents struggling to meet higher prices as the cost of living rises, sources told RFA in earlier reports.
“The situation in this area has now changed a lot,” Muong Sony—a youth leader in the Khmer Student Intelligent League Association, a Cambodian student organization—said following a visit to the city in late 2018.
“I visited four beaches and saw pollution and poor sanitation everywhere,” Muong Sony said.
“There were no garbage containers on hand, and plastic bags were everywhere, along with a flow of foul-smelling sewage,” Muong Sony said, adding that trash now piles up not only on the beaches but on the city streets as well.
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Richard Finney.