The Ministry of Water Resources seized four boats on Wednesday for allegedly breaking a government ban on river sand dredging in Phnom Penh and is searching for the owners.
The city issued the ban last year in response to what it said was an oversupply of unlicensed dredging boats. Their activity has been blamed for a number of homes along the city’s riverbank falling into the water, though the city has attributed the collapses to natural erosion.
On Thursday, Water Resources Minister Lim Kean Hor said four boats were seized and impounded on Wednesday for violating the ban.
“The four boats were seized while the workers were dredging the sand from the river,” he said. “Dredging sand is not allowed since before the [national] elections [in July] up to now.”
Mr. Kean Hor said at least 20 boats had been seized since the ban took effect.
Ministry spokesman Chan Yutha said no one was arrested during the boat seizures because everyone on board jumped into the water and escaped. He said that the government did not yet know who owned the four boats, which were all operating in different parts of the Mekong, but was investigating.
Despite the ban, Mr. Yutha said boats are still allowed to dredge in two areas in Phnom Penh, in front of the Royal Palace and near Oknha Tey Island, south of Silk Island, in order to remove silt that might hinder the flow of the river.