More than 100 people in Phnom Penh’s Chbar Ampov district protested near their homes along the Bassac River on Sunday against ongoing sand dredging, which they say is threatening to cause their homes to collapse.
“We protested today to demand the authorities take the two sand dredging barges to somewhere else, because all of the people are worried for their homes, as they will collapse because of the sand dredging,” said Sam Sina, a 51-year-old resident.
“We will protest again to block National Road 1 if the authorities do not find a solution for our demands,” he said.
Chbar Ampov district deputy governor Nop Tha said local authorities asked the dredgers to cease operations in December, around the time the Mines and Energy Ministry wrote to the municipality pointing out that there was an ongoing sand dredging ban on the Mekong and Bassac rivers.
“I ordered the sand dredging owner to close temporarily to wait for a decision from the upper levels,” Mr. Tha said, adding that the owner of the dredging boats continued to operate despite their pleas.
“Phnom Penh City Hall has ordered the sand dredging owner to close because the validity has expired, but the individual has not respected the upper level’s order,” he said.
Kim Meng, the owner of the two boats, said that he stopped his operations Sunday morning after being visited by the authorities, but added that he did not believe that dredging would cause a riverbank collapse.
“I have a permission letter for sand dredging issued by the Phnom Penh governor [Pa Socheatvong] but he recently instructed me to fill a new form for exploitation from the Ministry of Water Resources, but I was still using my old letter because it is still valid,” Mr. Meng said.
Last month, municipal police confiscated 10 barges and five sand dredging machines near Koh Pich island at the confluence of the Mekong and Bassac rivers, only days after the Mines and Energy Ministry released its letter.