About 300 angry villagers blocked a dusty road in Takeo province’s Bati district on Friday, demanding that three quarrying firms follow through on promises to pave it, a local official said Sunday.
The villagers are unhappy that the quarrying firms’ trucks kick up massive amounts of dust as they pass through a 2-km stretch of dirt road in Tnort commune, and have been seeking to have the road paved since 2006, to no avail. They say the dust lowers visibility, makes it difficult to breathe, and causes health problems for their children.
“Villagers on Friday protested to block the road where the company uses the road for quarry trucks and makes it bad and dusty,” said commune chief Heng Hong. “They demand that the rock companies that use the road in Tnort commune pave the road for them.”
Villagers have been protesting and blocking the road over this issue since 2006, when only one firm, International Camrocks and Block (ICB), quarried in the area. ICB initially told villagers that it was the government’s responsibility to pave the road, but after a year of protests, agreed in 2008 to pave it and charge toll fees to cover the cost. However, even this plan never came to fruition.
Mr. Hong said there were now two other companies quarrying in the area, one of which he identified as GL Co. Ltd. and one whose name he said he could not recall.
Friday’s protest ended after GL agreed to meet with villagers and consider their demands. The villagers also want the companies to stop nighttime work, which keeps villagers awake, stop using explosives to blast rocks out of Phnom Chambab mountain, and keep chemicals used in quarrying away from their water supply.
Lach Sopha, the district governor, said that even though only one of the three companies had come to negotiate, the villagers agreed to stop the roadblock after GL struck a tentative deal with them to build a road three months from now.
“The one company that came out to discuss with villagers asked them to wait three months, and after three months they will build the road for them,” he said.
GL company representative Suon Sokhema said that a decision on the road would be made by high-level company officials, but could not say when this would happen.