Six representatives of some 300 villagers in Koh Kong province who accuse a sand dredging company of operating beyond their permitted area and depleting local fish stocks traveled to Phnom Penh on Thursday to ask the government to intervene.
They submitted petitions to the National Assembly and the Ministry of Mines and Energy, asking officials to make Rainbow International stop dredging around Koh Kapi island. Several of the fishermen banded together earlier this month to drive the company’s barges away.
“We do not have land to farm; we depend on the sea,” said Sos Nara, one of the fishermen who made the trip to Phnom Penh.
“We ask the National Assembly to intervene to stop the sand dredging.”
Opposition lawmaker Kong Sophea, who heads the Assembly’s human rights commission, accepted the petition and said he would deliver it to the agriculture commission, which is also headed by the opposition.
Contacted by telephone, Mines and Energy Ministry spokesman Dith Tina said his ministry also accepted the petition, but claimed that the dispute had already been settled because the barges stopped dredging on the government’s order.
Authorities in Koh Kong ordered the company to suspend its operations last week, but villagers are worried that the dredging might resume, as the barges remain moored in the area.