Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Saturday ordered the newly-appointed Preah Sihanouk Provincial governor to ensure public order, address land conflicts and clean up the environment in order to attract investors.
Kuoch Chamroeun, former Kampong Cham provincial governor, was assigned after former Preah Sihanouk Governor Yun Min resigned following the collapse of a Chinese-owned building in the province last week that killed 28 and injured 26 people.
Mr Min has since been given a secretary of state position at the Defence Ministry.
“If we lose [the environment] there will be no tourists, no investments,” Mr Kheng said during Mr Chamroeun’s appointment ceremony on Friday. “We consider 2019 to be the year of law enforcement, so we have to make sure that there’s good security and order so we can push for successful Sihanoukville investments.”
Mr Kheng noted that Mr Chamroeun and all provincial officials must ensure that investors have proper permits in order to avoid accidents.
“In order to avoid incidents related to construction, as well as providing credentials to provincial officials, [officials] must be sure to review all construction details,” he said. “It’s not enough that we only review buildings under construction, we have to review all buildings.”
“The authorities have to check progress of construction [projects] and how businesses operate because we recently experienced a collapse of a building – that’s why we need to pay attention,” he added. “No one wants to stay in a hotel if it would collapse – even I wouldn’t stay.”
On land issues, Mr Kheng said officials must settle cases properly and avoid violence because land conflicts are a sensitive issue.
“Land conflict issues are very challenging,” he said. “Incitement can be spread due to political issues, we have to be careful.”
Mr Kheng noted that tycoon Sok Bun and five commune officials were arrested over allegations of forging land documents.
“We have to follow the law […],” he said. “We already instructed [them] to not be involved in [forging documents], but they didn’t pay attention.”
“I don’t have much experience regarding resolving land conflicts, but we know principles of law and justice,” Mr Kheng added. “We can’t use power to violate.”
According to Anti-Corruption Unit chairman Om Yentieng on Friday, Mr Bun and the five officials attempted to grab land by forging the documents.
“It was an attempted conspiracy between Mr Bun and the five commune officials to grab land by bringing the documents to local authorities for them to sign and transfer ownership,” Mr Yentieng said. “These people created fake documents.”
He noted that the ACU spent five weeks looking into the case before making arrests.
“This case involves state and private land, and in the complaints, they were accused of intentional destruction of property and abuse of power,” Mr Yentieng said. “We have discovered many fake documents. The five commune officials also confessed to their wrongful acts. This is a successful investigation.”
During his speech on Saturday, Mr Chamroeun said he will do his job and carry out the government’s policy by working with his officials.
“I am determined and will implement the policies and strategies of the government […] in order to strengthen the management of the province with effectiveness and transparency,” he said. “I will push to implement commune and village safety policies in order to ensure public order, political stability and harmony.”
Seng Lot, spokesman for the Land Management Ministry, could not be reached for comment.
However, Mr Kheng reported that the Interior Ministry identified five projects operating without proper permits in Preah Sihanouk.
So far, seven people suspected to be connected to the building that collapsed have been arrested, including three Chinese nationals and a Cambodian.