Authorities in southwestern Cambodia's Sihanoukville province have shut down a Chinese-owned casino accused of polluting an adjacent beach following the casino's defiance of orders to cease operations, sources said on Friday.
The Jin Ding Hotel and Casino located on Koh Rong Samloem Island, a popular tourist destination, was ordered to close in March because it was operating without a license and releasing untreated sewage water directly into the sea.
That order and a follow-up notice to Jin Ding's owner to shut the casino down had been ignored, sources said.
Speaking to RFA's Khmer Service on May 24, Sihanoukville province spokesperson Kheng Phyrum said that police and court officials have now closed Jin Ding, with its owner forced by a court official accompanying police to sign an agreement to close it down.
"If the owner doesn't comply with this agreement, the case will automatically be sent to the court, and the owner will face prosecution," Kheng Phyrum said.
Also speaking to RFA, Cambodian environmental activist Thun Ratha welcomed Friday's move by the authorities, saying it had come a little late and voicing hope that the casino will now be closed for good.
"We don't believe that it will be permanently closed," Thun Ratha said, adding, "We are afraid that today's action is just intended to calm people down, and that the casino will be opened again within a few months.
In a letter seen in March by RFA's Khmer Service, provincial authorities ordered Jin Ding closed, 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.
On one occasion, the casino's security chief had also fired gunshots into the air, the letter ordering the casino's closing said.
Chinese investment has flowed into Sihanoukville in recent years, but Cambodians regularly chafe at what they call unscrupulous business practices and unbecoming behavior by Chinese businessmen and residents.
A report by the AFP news agency in January on how Sihanoukville had become a "sizeable gambling playground" for Chinese tourists said there were at least 50 Chinese owned casinos in the province.
Reported by RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Richard Finney.
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