Dredging in the Mekong River near the Neak Leung Ferry crossing in Prey Veng province has continued one week after the Water Resource Ministry announced that it would, yet again, ask Prime Minister Hun Sen to stop the dredging, which could pose a danger to local riverbank communities, local authorities and villagers said.
Villagers in Prey Veng on Wednesday said the water resource ministry has not acted quickly enough in seeking the prime minister’s intervention with the dredging company, which is reportedly owned by a member of the premier’s own personal bodyguard unit.
“The company workers have told us they will not stop without an order from Hun Sen,” said 46-year-old Uth Thary of Prek Khsay village.
“I want the order to be issued here soon. Otherwise, we are still living with the worry,” he said.
Sam Ne, chief of Prek Khsay Khor commune in Prey Veng province’s Peamro district, said the dredging company, the Phal Sareth Import Export Tourism company, has simply moved its fleet of sand-pumping tugboats 2 km north of the Neak Leung Ferry, a location where dredging is prohibited.
“I am worried about the riverbank collapse,” he said.
The Ministry of Water Resources has attempted four times already to stop the firm from dredging in the area and designated it a no-dredge zone, according to ministry documents.
On May 26 last year, Minister Lim Kean Hor said his ministry’s sand management committee had decided to seek Hun Sen’s endorsement on their proposed order to stop all sand dredging in Peamro district due to concerns about the possibility of riverbank collapse.
Lim Kean Hor could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but his cabinet chief Chan Yuttha said the intervention letter has still not been sent to Hun Sen.
“I have prepared it already,” he said, but declined to explain why the letter has not been sent to the prime minister.
Bunchan Kreusna, deputy director general of Phal Sareth company, said sand dredging boats belonging to his company have moved 6 to 7 km from the prohibited area.
“We decided to move on our own, before the issuance of an order,” he said. “We have been informed about the possible ending of dredging. So we moved,” he said, and blamed 10 other dredging companies for digging riverbed sand from the prohibited area near the busy ferry town.
Prey Veng Governor Ung Samy could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but he said by telephone Monday that his provincial authorities are ready to enforce the order from the government when it arrives.