Chinese owned businesses in Cambodia seem to be a law unto themself, a polluting casino ordered closed by the government in March continuing with business as usual. Frustrated by the lack of action by local authorities, a Cambodian environmental campaigner plans to seek the help of the Sihanoukville court to have the resort demolished and the owners held accountable.
The plan to reach out to Cambodia’s judiciary to order the country’s laws enforced is the latest escalation in tension between Chinese developers and Cambodian environmental campaigners concerned at the damage being caused to the Sihanoukville ecosystem in tandem with aggressive Chinese development.
On March 13 provincial authorities in Sihanoukville ordered the Jin Ding Hotel and Casino on Koh Rong Somlem closed after an investigation found it had broken a string of laws, including using an expired gambling license, being build illegally on a public beach, not having authorisation from relevant authorities, and for spewing raw sewage into the sea.
This investigation and subsequent shut-down order came after two Mother Nature Cambodia campaigners released a video on social media showing two pipes coming out of the casino discharging untreated sewage into the sea.
On April 9 Mother Nature Cambodia campaigner Meng Heng visited Koh Rong Somlem expecting to see the the Jin Ding Hotel and Casino shuttered, if not dismantled. Instead he found it trading as usual. Video allegedly recorded by Mr Meng inside the casino is also said to show Cambodian nationals gambling in breach of the 1996 law on the suppression of gambling.
Fearing that the the Jin Ding Hotel and Casino will be allowed to continue with ‘business as usual’, in the video above Mr Meng says he will attempt to get the help of the Sihanoukville court in ensuring the laws of Cambodia are applied as they should. Those of similar feelings should come forward and join with him, he says.
In an interview with RFA’s Khmer Service, Kheang Phyrum, a spokesman for Sihanoukville city hall, admitted that the owner of the Jin Ding Hotel and Casino had so far refused to follow the city’s orders to shut down.
If the casino failed to shut down after receiving a third order Mr Kheang said the city would take the owners to court and seek a demolition order. Given Cambodia’s legal system this could be a process that sees the casino owner thumbing his nose at Khmer officials and laughing all the way to the bank for many years.
AEC News Today was unable to contact Jin Ding Hotel and Casino owner Zhou Jianhua.
Update: On Friday, May 24, officials from the Sihanoukville Provincial Authority (SPA), the Cambodian National Police (CNP), and court officials went to the island and ordered the Jin Ding Hotel and Casino shuttered immediately.
Citing Mr Kheang, RFA’s Khmer Service said the owner of the resort was ‘forced by a court official accompanying police to sign an agreement to close it down.“If the owner doesn’t comply with this agreement, the case will automatically be sent to the court, and the owner will face prosecution”’, Mr Kheng is quoted as saying.
No information on when deconstruction of the Jin Ding Hotel and Casino was made by the SPA, leaving environmentalists speculating as to whether this was simply an exercise in calming troubled water and if the casino would be back up and running in a few months time. AEC News Today was unable to contact Mr Kheng due to the weekend.
Update: This story was last updated at 0830 local time to include information that the casino had been shuttered.
Feature video Mother Nature Cambodia
- Polluting Chinese Casino in Cambodia Ordered Closed (RFA)
- Waste flowing into the ocean in Sihanoukville (The Phnom Penh Post)
- Sihanoukville’s new sewage systems ‘almost complete’ (The Phnom Penh Post)
- No paradise island: waters off Cambodia’s Koh Rong a giant sewage dump (AEC News Today)