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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.

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“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)

Next Story

Plan to Protect Corals in Gulf of Mexico Close to Becoming Law

Thirteen of the areas would carry new commercial fishing restrictions, and that has attracted the attention of fishing groups, who want the government

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FILE - In this July 20, 2010 file photo, a soft coral and a brittle star, which were collected from the Gulf of Mexico, are displayed at the Smithsonian Museum Support Center in Suitland, MD. VOA

A plan to protect corals in the Gulf of Mexico is close to becoming a law, drawing cheers from environmental groups who believe leaving the corals alone would help vulnerable ocean ecosystems to grow.

The plan would create 21 protected areas off the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. Thirteen of the areas would carry new commercial fishing restrictions, and that has attracted the attention of fishing groups, who want the government to take a cautious approach.

Pew Charitable Trusts has characterized the plan as a way to protect nearly 500 square miles of slow-growing coral “hot spots,” and is championing the protection plan as a way to spare vulnerable corals from fishing gear. The proposal would prohibit gear such as bottom trawls and dredges that can disrupt the corals.

Sandra Brooke, an oceanographer and coral ecology expert at Florida State University’s Coastal and Marine Laboratory, said it’s important to spare the corals because of their importance to the marine environment and because they can have value for the development of new medicines.

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In this Sept. 4, 2009 photo provided by NOAA, corals are seen at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. VOA

“If we continue squandering, we are going to end up in a really bad place, because we can’t replicate what nature can do,” Brooke said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service is taking comments about the proposal until Nov. 25.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, a regulatory panel, approved the plan last year, but NOAA must still provide final approval.

NOAA Fisheries said in a statement that most of the areas slated to be protected are “extremely deep and fishing activity is sparse.” However, harvesters of valuable species such as grouper and snapper said they do fish in the areas.

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Greg Abrams, owner of Greg Abrams Seafood in Panama City, Florida, said his company also harvests golden tilefish in some of the areas slated for closure. He said the change could represent a hardship.

“Each time you close the bottom or close the area, you put all the pressure on another area,” Abrams said.

Another fisherman, Destin, Florida-based Ariel Seafoods president David Krebs, said protecting the corals is wise as long as it’s done in a way that allows fishing groups to stay in business.

“I’m the guy who has watched, in his lifetime, different fisheries get fished down pretty hard and if it weren’t for regulations, we would not survive,” he said.

Corals, Gulf of Mexico, Law
The plan would create 21 protected areas off the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. Pixabay

NOAA Fisheries has touted the proposal as a way to protect the corals while also sparing fish habitat from the impacts of commercial fishing. The agency has said that will ultimately support sustainable fisheries because it will improve the quality of ocean habitat where fish live, spawn and grow.

The corals provide shelter, breeding and feeding habitat for species that fishermen will ultimately rely upon for their catch, said Holly Binns, project director with Pew’s Conserving Marine Life effort.

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“We want to protect these corals because they are a habitat for these creatures that commercial fishermen who are targeting them need,” Binns said. “It’s incredibly important that we are protecting them before they get damaged.” (VOA)