Log-Hauling Rafts Blamed For Damage to New Bridge Kompong Cham

Log rafts are damaging the Japanese-built bridge over the Mekong River in Kompong Cham town, Minister of Agri­culture Chan Sarun said Monday.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has asked authorities in Stung Treng, Kratie and Kompong Cham provinces to stop logging companies and ferries shipping goods from sending rafts under the Kizuna Ja­panese-Cambodian friendship bridge, the minister said.

“We just want to prevent [damage] and defend the bridge,” Chan Sarun said.

The ministry issued a directive last week stating that public property was being abused by the log rafts, many of which it claims belong to illegal loggers. This ac­tivity is especially prevalent—and damaging—in the rainy season when the river is high, the directive notes.

Logs can be transported on ferries or boats, but not on rafts, the di­rective orders. If the bridge is damaged, forestry officials will hold raft-runners responsible, Chan Sarun said.

In Kompong Cham, policemen are guarding the bridge day and night. “We worry that the strong flow of water could ram the log rafts into the bridge supports. If the log rafts hit the bridge many times, it could break,” said Mao Phirun, second deputy governor of Kompong Cham province.

Police will arrest anyone who violates the directive or damages the bridge, Mao Phirun said. “If someone breaks the bridge, that person should be in jail,” he said. “How are we supposed to fix it? There’s no way to fix it.”

The Kizuna bridge was built with $56 million of Japanese grant aid. The 1.36-km-long bridge was opened last December by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who called it “priceless wealth” for Cambodia.

The bridge took almost three years to complete and cuts travel time for crossing the Mekong from about an hour on a slow-mov­ing ferry to just a few minutes. The bridge links the 16 districts of Cam­bodia’s most populous province.


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