Buddhist monks and youths who are conducting a ten-day pilgrimage from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville in protest of a Chinese-owned beachfront casino in Koh Rong commune will continue their journey despite authorities issuing a statement clarifying that the establishment has been shut down since May and will soon be demolished.
The group, which was organised by Mother Nature, began their trek on October 15. They are demanding that provincial authorities demolish Jinding International Entertainment Company’s casino because it violated coastal land and impacted the environment.
Provincial Hall spokesman Kheang Phearum yesterday said that local authorities previously clarified that Jinding International’s casino was shut down in May because it violated coastal land.
Mr Phearum said the owner of the casino is currently seeking permission from relevant ministries to rebuild the casino in a new location.
He added that the owner asked the authorities to delay demolishing the casino as workers disassemble equipment and materials in the building.
“We have clarified with clear reasons, and we hope the monks and youths of Mother Nature will understand,” Mr Phearum said.
Mr Phearum noted that the group has the freedom to express themselves, but they must refrain from conducting activities outside of what the law permits and avoid affecting public order and security.
“We have already clarified, but if they continue, we don’t know what to do next,” he said. “We will wait for the action of provincial leaders.”
Thun Ratha, a youth representative from Mother Nature, yesterday said their pilgrimage aims to send a message to authorities that no building should impact the environment or violate coastal land, noting that Jindin’s casino did just that.
He said people, especially youths, must do their part in taking care of public properties and conserving nature and natural resources.
Mr Ratha said even though provincial authorities have provided a statement clarifying the situation, the group will continue to travel to Sihanoukville to urge the removal of the casino.
“Our group will continue the pilgrimage until we have reached our destination because the clarification letter does not specify exactly when the demolition will take place and we do not have faith in the action of the authorities,” he said. “Even though provincial authorities and relevant institutions have in the past ordered the demolition of businesses, owners continued to operate until a second closure notice had to be issued. Therefore, we ask that the casino’s building be demolished straight away.”