Gov’t Authorizes Continued Controversial Sand Dredging

The government has authorized controversial sand dredging operations to continue around the Neak Leung ferry crossing in Prey Veng province, officials said.

During a meeting Tuesday, the Ministry of Water Resources’ Sand Management Committee granted permission to the Phal Sareth Import-Export and Tourism Com­pany to continue dredging sand from the Mekong River in Peamro district’s Prek Khsay Khor commune, said Ministry Secretary of State Bun Hean. The company will have to follow technical advice from experts at the committee, he added.

“They informed me that Sam­dech [Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday] gave an endorsement for continuation of my business,” said Bunchan Kreusna, deputy director-general of Phal Sareth. “I will follow all technical orders,” he said, adding his boats had already moved about 6 km from the ferry crossing.

He added that the green light had come thanks to the intervention of Prey Veng province CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap, who had previously strongly opposed the dredging. “Seeing that the Mekong River is getting shallower day after day, so dredging is a real need to facilitate boat traffic and water flow,” Mr Cheam Yeap wrote in a Saturday letter addressed to Water Resour­ces Minister Lim Kean Hor ob­tained Thursday.

On March 19, Mr Cheam Yeap had written to Mr Lim Kean Hor de­manding an immediate order to halt the dredging operations, fearing that National Road 11 and riverside residences might collapse.

Contacted by telephone Thurs­day, Mr Cheam Yeap confirmed the authenticity of the new letter and said he changed his mind after personally inspecting the dredging sites and discussing the matter with villagers and Mr Bunchan Kreus­na, and also after the company agreed to move 300 meters from the riverbank.

Before approving the operation Tuesday, the ministry had four times demanded that Mr Phal Sareth stop dredging, with no result. Vil­lagers have protested the operations, fearing for their homes.

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