Authorities Unperturbed by Private Owner Fencing Off Sihanoukville Beach

3 min read
A private wall constructed on Sihanoukville’s O’Chheuteal beach, in January 2023. (Heng Sreyroth’s Facebook page)
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A Preah Sihanouk spokesperson said private property encroaching onto the province’s beaches was OK as long as owners had the requisite land documents to prove ownership.

Photos emerged from a social media user last week showing a brick wall enclosing a section of a Sihanoukville beach — very close to the water’s edge — and has been shared close to 8,000 times. A video from a separate post showed waves flowing inside the fence, which has an opening facing the sea.

Preah Sihanouk provincial spokesperson Kheang Phearum said the site was the old location of the naval police base and was privatized between 2007 and 2008. He said the new owners were only building a new fence.

“In the past there was an old fence. But currently they requested to build a new fence,” he said. “In short, first they have a land title and permission to build.”

Phearum said people were free to post what they wanted on social media, but the rules were that if you have a title for the land it was legal to build a fence.

The Facebook user who posted the photos, named Heng Sreyroth, said they saw the fence being constructed on O’Chheuteal beach and photographed it last week.

“I often went there but this time I saw the fence was quite far [near the sea]. It is so surprising because it wasn’t like this before,” Sreyroth said.

On Facebook, commenters slyly mocked the structure, posting images of a public sign in Sihanoukville that reads “Khmer people can do anything.”

One user, Po Lin, said, “It’s not nice to look at.”

Another user, Eng Chhayhout, posted an image of a governmental sub-decree saying that 100 meters from the water line is considered a beach and part of the sea.

Buon commune chief Seng Nin said the fence was built a while ago and belonged to a private house on O’Chheuteal beach. He said he had gone to the house recently but only saw security guards there.

“I saw it, but it belongs to a private owner. I can’t go in. People are playing around the beach,” he said.

In 2018, Hun Sen ordered the removal of all fences at construction sites along the beach because they were blocking access to the seafront. Last year, authorities again removed all vendors from the beach to beautify the public space, dealing a blow to local street-sellers.

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