Development & Challenges

Sihanoukville Development “Challenges”

Sihanoukville’s deputy governor has admitted the city’s development has come coupled with huge challenges but said authorities are taking strong measures to clamp down on crime and safety concerns
Suspects detained following raids in Preah Sihanouk province. Kiripost/supplied
Suspects detained following raids in Preah Sihanouk province. Kiripost/supplied

Development in Preah Sihanouk province always comes with challenges, a deputy governor has said in response to the US Ambassador Patrick Murphy who claimed urgent action is needed to address the “storm clouds” there.

In a tweet on Sunday, Murphy said he was taking a moment to reflect on much human tragedy in Sihanoukville in the form of unsafe boats, trafficking, scam centers, abandoned buildings and a casino glut.

“There’s a real need for broad action to address the storm clouds here,” Murphy tweeted with a picture of a Sihanoukville map, unfinished buildings and sea.

Murphy was in Sihanoukville to join a Canadian warship, which made a first-ever port call in Cambodia.

In a lengthy response on Facebook with a screenshot of Murphy’s tweet, Long Dimanche, Preah Sihanouk’s deputy governor, said that understandably, development goes hand-in-hand with challenges.

He added that in its early phase of growth and transformation, the province still has a long path ahead, and on this journey, many concerns and challenges need to be addressed properly.

“First of all, concerning unsafe boats, any passenger boat or cruise that does not meet the safety standard requirements is strictly prohibited from operation. Anyone who disobeys and violates such regulations will be held accountable before the law,” Dimanche wrote.

“The authority regards this issue with a significant amount of gravity, and we do not take any violation of such safety requirements lightly.”

Long Dimanche (left), Patrick Murphy (right)
Long Dimanche (left), Patrick Murphy (right)

Dimanche said that with regard to trafficking and online scam activities, the authority has established various inter-agency mechanisms. This includes the Operation Leading Committee, under which authorities have teamed up with stakeholders to detect and put an end to criminal activities in the province.

As the authority continues to grapple with these challenges, it is calling on the cooperation of international partners to address and end these issues.

The abandoned buildings, Dimanche added, is the result of the government’s efforts to eliminate the premises of online casinos and gambling in the province.

The matter has been worsened by the direct impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, he said, adding it is undeniable that the unfinished construction poses a challenge to Sihanoukville’s developmental prospects, particularly as the province is implementing ambitious plans to transform it into a Multi-Purpose Model Special Economic Zone Master Plan.

He said that the provincial authority has been cooperating closely with various actors from the public and private sectors, experts in real estate, bankers, and other related stakeholders to tackle and address these issues as soon as possible.

“We look forward to effectively addressing this issue soon and witnessing the inception of the province’s transformation as the model for growth, high-tech, and industrialized special economic zone contributing sustainably to the regional and global production chain,” Dimanche said.

“To this end, I reflect that Cambodian authorities may be at fault for certain countries which wish to see Cambodia fall into the dilemma of geopolitical tension. The Cambodian authorities have repeatedly stated that despite being a small country, it pursues an undivided position that is neutral and friendly to all foreign friends.”

Pa Chanroeun, President of the Cambodian Institute for Democracy (CID), said on Tuesday that Murphy’s tweet about Sihanoukville is a wakeup call for the authorities to additionally take measures in terms of unsafe boats, human trafficking, online scams and casinos.

“The United States and other international communities are paying attention to these issues that authorities solve and prevent. These crimes are not just in Cambodia, they are inter-boundary crimes, therefore, authorities in Sihanoukville should continue their work,” Chanroeun said.

“If they can work well on these issues, solve these crimes, it is a good image for Cambodia and Sihanoukville is a major tourist destination. They need to restore the province’s reputation so that it can attract trust from tourists and investors.”

Chanroeun added it is good that Dimanche has admitted to shortcomings in his response. However, the tackling of these crimes has long been overdue and needs to be resolved, if there is political will.

“It is a steppingstone to restore Preah Sihanouk’s reputation and if these problems continue like this, it will not just tarnish the image of Preah Sihanouk but the nation’s,” he said.