A company linked to tycoon Khun Sear, TP Moral Group, received 1,247 hectares of coastal waters in Kep province to develop a new satellite city and “special tourism zone” according to a March 6 sub-decree signed by former Prime Minister Hun Sen and publicized in the Royal Gazette on Monday.
The land concession is spread out across Kep, Angkol and Pong Tek communes in Damnak Chang’eur district. In the same sub-decree, Hun Sen granted the Kep Provincial Administration 220 hectares for public infrastructure and the construction of a stadium in the same areas.
TP Moral Group’s Executive Director Khun Sengpheng told CamboJA on Tuesday that the construction of the new satellite city had not yet started.
“We have to study all the impacts, otherwise it will not lead to development,” Sengpheng said.
Sengpheng declined to provide information on what the impacts might be, as well as the timeline and expected cost of the development project.
“It is not possible to answer at the moment, wait and see how our study came out so we can continue,” Sengpheng said.
TP Moral Group’s chairman is Khun Ty. A call to a phone number listed in Commerce Ministry records went unanswered.
TP Moral Group was one of several private firms set to develop land inside the Phnom Tamao forest area in Takeo province last year, only to have its permits revoked by Hun Sen following widespread public outcry.
Sear, who could not be reached for comment, is a prominent land developer in Cambodia and received the title Neak Oknha in 2008.
Sear is behind another 70 hectare satellite city development in Arey Ksat, which has been filling in a stretch of the Mekong river; existing residents previously told CamboJA they had not been notified in advance of the development.
Kep City Governor Kheng Yorn, Deputy Provincial Governors Ol Pirun, Land Department Director Vao Sokha and Provincial Environment Department Director Im Panharith did not respond to requests for comment about TP Moral Group’s satellite city project.
Much of Kep’s coastline has already been granted to well-connected private individuals and companies.
Cambodian Youth Network coordinator Out Latin said the development project would definitely affect the natural resources and the environment. He asked for the government to increase the transparency and specificity of the environmental impact assessment to mitigate any harmful impacts.
He also urged for the promotion of community-based ecotourism to empower local communities.
“We want to see a green development that brings in revenue to the government and its people are happy with that development,” he said. “We do not want to see development that only benefits private companies.”