Some 60 families in Kompong Cham province yesterday filed a complaint with the human rights group Adhoc over noxious fumes reportedly emanating from a nearby warehouse storing unprocessed resin from rubber trees.
Residents in Chamkar Loeu district’s Ta Ong commune met with local authorities on Dec 7 to raise their concerns about the warehouse, the fumes from which they say are causing a rise in ailments such as headaches and vomiting, resident Ke Sam Oeurn said yesterday.
But Mr Sam Oeurn said authorities had done nothing about the warehouse, which sits within 10 meters of most of their homes, and accused them of colluding with its owner, Ly Eam Chun, to ignore their concerns.
He said the warehouse arrived in the village without their consent about a year ago, but only began emitting heavy fumes this month.
“Authorities did not consult with villagers about storing the rubber resin in the village,” he said. “They are not concerned with people’s health.”
District governor Kim Nuthra yesterday said he had contacted commune officials last week to solve the problem but would not elaborate on how they would do so or whether they had yet taken any action.
“Now the commune chief is handling the case,” he said. Commune chief Oum Sokhum, who also serves as director of the province’s environment department, could not be reached.
District health department director Kim Sourphirum said the matter had not been referred to him.
“I have not seen or received a report involving bad smells from a rubber resin warehouse. I cannot comment on the case,” he said.
Provincial Adhoc coordinator Neang Sovath said the group of complainants would now investigate the case and prepare documents to file with the government.
“We are investigating whether authorities did nothing about the case and still allow the warehouse owner to store rubber resin in the village,” he said. “We will prepare documents to file a complaint with the environment department and any institution…involved with the case.” Dr Chhim said he hoped to further the research, which was for a PhD thesis at Monash University in Australia. “In the long run, this is the first step to develop a syndrome. Then I can see if it is possible to develop a management strategy.”
In Cambodia, Western-based approaches dominate mental health services, with research between 2000 and 2009 showing rates of PTSD in Cambodia ranging from 7 to 28.4 percent, he said. “I want Cambodian mental health professionals to [recognize] ethno-cultural responses instead of just looking at Western diagnostic criteria and fitting it to Cambodia.”