Polluting Casino in Cambodia's Sihanoukville Still Standing Months After Demolition Order

Thursday 7th May 2020

More than two months after being ordered to demolish a casino closed for polluting a beach in Cambodia's Sihanoukville, the Chinese owners have yet to tear it down, an activist said Thursday, suggesting that authorities "don't intend to resolve the issue."

The Jin Ding casino located on Koh Rong Samloem Island, a popular tourist destination in the seaside resort town, was ordered to close in May because it was operating without a license, promoting illegal online betting games, and releasing untreated sewage directly into the sea.

Cambodian activists have long called for the demolition of Jin Ding, saying that if the structure is not destroyed it will likely be reopened at a later date. But provincial authorities have delayed in tearing the casino down, despite issuing a directive to do so and to clean the surrounding beach on Feb. 28.

Long Kunthea, an activist with the environmental advocacy group Mother Nature, told RFA's Khmer Service that only the Jin Ding's signage had been removed as of Thursday.

"We can't believe that [the authorities] forgot about the building because it's huge and stands right on the beach," she said. "I think they don't intend to resolve the issue."

Sihanoukville provincial government spokesman Kheang Phearum told RFA he has yet to receive information from local authorities regarding the building demolition and refused to comment on the situation.

In October, Kheang Phearum said that the Jin Ding's owners had applied for permission to build the casino again at a new location and would demolish the old buildings when the new facility is built.

Authorities regularly monitor the former structures to ensure that business operations there have not resumed, he said at the time.

Koh Rong district chief Lok Vannarin could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.

Cheap Sotheary, Sihanoukville provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, told RFA that the authorities must implement the law equally for both Chinese and Cambodians.

She said the owner of the casino should be summoned for questioning over why they have yet to demolish the building.

"If the authorities don't take action, it demonstrates a double standard," she said.

Long Kunthea said Mother Nature intends to file a complaint with the provincial court against the casino for encroaching on a public beach and releasing sewage into the sea.

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 Agence France-Presse 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.

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