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Cambodia’s Government To Shut Down A Chinese-Owned Hotel, Suspect To Water Pollution

Overhead footage shot with a drone camera clearly shows a large stream of discolored water snaking through the beach behind the resort and spilling into the sea.

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A screen grab from a video shows an aerial view of what appears to be sewage streaming out of the Sunshine Bay Hotel and Casino on Koh Rong Samloem Island. RFA

An environmental watchdog on Thursday called on Cambodia’s government to shut down a Chinese-owned hotel and casino for pouring raw sewage into the sea off of the coast of the popular resort town of Sihanoukville, following the closure of another on the same island last month.

In a video posted to Facebook, Mother Nature activist Meng Heng said the Sunshine Bay Hotel and Casino is severely polluting the water off of the southern tip of Koh Rong Samloem Island’s Independence beach.

Overhead footage shot with a drone camera clearly shows a large stream of discolored water snaking through the beach behind the resort and spilling into the sea.

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“If we find out they are violating the laws [against polluting the environment], we will ask them to correct the situation,” Pixabay

He noted that the sea near the hotel and casino has “an unusual odor and color to it,” adding that as one approaches the perimeter of the property “we will be left in no doubt as to why this part of the beach receives no tourists.”

While Meng Heng acknowledged that it was impossible to tell whether all of the pollution comes solely from the hotel, it is clear that “large amounts of sewage are being dumped onto this part of the beach on a daily basis.”

In mid-March, officials ordered another Chinese-run facility of Koh Rong Samloem—the Jin Ding Hotel and Casino—to shut down, citing multiple violations by the casino of the law, the playing of loud music on the beach, and the promotion of illegal online betting games.

The closure followed accusations that the resort was ruining the beauty of a local beach by pouring raw sewage into the sea, prompting complaints by area residents and inspections by authorities.

At the time, Leang Sopheary—a youth volunteer who visited the island in February and posted photos of the polluted water on social media—called on authorities to examine larger areas of beachfront now also under threat.

Another environmental activist, Thorn Ratha, called for a “serious punishment” for the Jin Ding’s owner, as well as an investigation into any government official “who might have been involved” in turning a blind eye to the violations.

Call for closure

In Thursday’s video, Meng Heng noted that on March 26, Minister for Urban Planning Chea Sophara had said in a statement posted to his Facebook account that in the aftermath of the Jin Ding’s closure “Sihanoukville no longer has any dirty water entering its beaches and sea,” but the activist questioned whether the minister had actually sent anyone to inspect the area before making such claims.

He urged Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government to act against the ongoing problem of pollution in the area, starting with the Sunshine Bay Hotel and Casino.

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He said authorities are targeting serious polluters first, and that they will issue warnings to any buildings found in breach of the city’s regulations before punishing them for continued violations. Pixabay

“Will Hun Sen’s regime dare to also shut down another Chinese business, the massive Sunshine Bay Hotel and Casino, if it finds that it is also spewing raw sewage onto the sea, in much larger quantities than the one in Koh Rong Samloem,” he asked.

On Thursday, Sihanoukville provincial spokesman Or Saroeun acknowledged to RFA’s Khmer Service that “sewage is a problem,” but said Sihanoukville city officials are “working to resolve the issue.”

He said authorities are targeting serious polluters first, and that they will issue warnings to any buildings found in breach of the city’s regulations before punishing them for continued violations.

“If we find out they are violating the laws [against polluting the environment], we will ask them to correct the situation,” he said.

Also Read: “We Got in Line And Handed Them The Money,”Cambodian Migrants Heading Home for the Holidays

“We want investors to bring development, but we don’t want them to harm the environment.”

Chinese investment has flowed into Sihanoukville in recent years, but Cambodians regularly chafe at what they say are unscrupulous business practices and unbecoming behavior by Chinese residents. (RFA)

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“The Team Was Treated Relatively Well” During Police Questioning, U.S. Christians Held in Laos

Throughout their period of detention, “the team was treated relatively well,” Vision Beyond Borders said in a recent statement. 

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Christian villagers in Laos are shown in an undated photo. RFA

Three U.S. citizens held in Laos last month for handing out religious tracts were “treated well” during questioning by police, but Lao Christians still face persecution at the hands of state authorities, the missionary group to which the three belong said this week.

“Yes, they were treated well, and we appreciate that,” Eric Blievernicht, operations manager for the Wyoming-based group Vision Beyond Borders, told RFA’s Lao Service on Thursday in a brief telephone interview.

“They‘re home safe now, and they’re looking forward to continuing their ministry,” Blievernicht said.

The three volunteers—identified by their given names, Wayne, Autumn, and Joseph—were picked up by police in a scenic corner of northern Laos’ Luang Namtha province on April 8 after handing out religious materials to villagers, a policeman and a witness told RFA in an earlier report.

Authorities then seized their passports and took them to a guesthouse in the provincial capital, about 60 kms (36 miles) from where they had been arrested, but allowed them free movement of their quarters and the surrounding village, and the three were deported to Thailand 10 days later.

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In a report released April 29, the bipartisan U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) placed Laos on its Tier 2 Watch List for what it called continuing serious abuses of religious freedoms. Pixabay

Throughout their period of detention, “the team was treated relatively well,” Vision Beyond Borders said in a recent statement.

“They were never hollered at, the officials never laid a hand on them, and they even provided bottled water when the team was at the [police] station,” the missionary group, which distributes bibles and recordings of religious messages around the world, said.

Speaking to RFA, Blievernight said however that Lao Christians themselves face greater difficulties every day, with Lao authorities “harassing Christians and breaking up meetings and making it difficult for them to gather.”

“So we’re continuing to pray for Laos and want to do whatever we can to support the churches there,” he said.

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Though the one-party communist state’s constitution “ostensibly protects its people’s inherent right to religious freedom,” regulations controlling religious observance in Laos are vaguely worded and open to interpretation by local authorities, USCIRF said. Pixabay

‘Continuing serious abuses’

In a report released April 29, the bipartisan U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) placed Laos on its Tier 2 Watch List for what it called continuing serious abuses of religious freedoms.

Also Read: Eating Walnuts Everyday Reduces Risk of Heart Diseases: Study

Though the one-party communist state’s constitution “ostensibly protects its people’s inherent right to religious freedom,” regulations controlling religious observance in Laos are vaguely worded and open to interpretation by local authorities, USCIRF said.

“Some Lao authorities remained deeply suspicious of Christians, sometimes resulting in social exclusion, harassment, and arbitrary detention by law enforcement officials,” the rights group said, adding that it had received reports throughout 2018 of persecution of Christians in Savannakhet, “a province known for its religious intolerance.” (RFA)