Company Defies Order, Continues Dredging Sand

A company ordered to cease its sand-dredging operation along the Sesan River in Ratanakkiri province after it was accused of illegally searching for gold is now defying the order, villagers claimed Monday.

Discovery Power, a joint Chinese-Cambodian venture, was given a license to dredge sand for sale but had instead allegedly been dredging sand and pumping chemicals into the water in search of a gold mine.

In April, it was ordered to cease the operation after ethnic minority villagers in Taveng district complained that the company had left them with chemical-laced water that is causing rashes on their skin.

Traing Thaim, a representative of the Prov ethnic group, said he collected 695 thumbprints from villagers Monday and plans to submit a petition with district authorities today to enforce the order.

Mr. Thaim said he witnessed the company pumping sand out of the river only to put it back in as late as last Wednesday.

“We have never seen the company transport the sand for sale,” he said. “We want the dredging to stop, as people living along the river have gotten rashes on their skin because the company used a chemical substance to explore for a gold mine and the water became dirty.”

Houn Kalep, 56, another Prov minority villager in Taveng Krom commune, said that Discovery Power’s boats have been covertly operating at nighttime only for the past few months.

Hun Bunthan, director of the provincial department for mines and energy, confirmed that the order to end dredging was handed down in April and said the company was in the process of withdrawing.

“The Ministry of Mines and Energy revoked the license for the company because we found it is technically dredging to discover a gold mine,” Mr. Bunthan said. “We ordered this company to remove the ferry from the river and they are now removing dredging equipment.”

Provincial deputy governor Ly Vin said authorities were looking into whether Discovery Power was following the order.

“I ordered my officials to look into whether they stopped yet, but they have not yet informed me about that,” he said.

Discovery Power could not be reached for comment.

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