Sand Dredging Could Collapse Houses: Villagers in Prey Veng

More than a hundred villagers along National Road 11 in Prey Veng province fear that sand dred­ging in the Mekong River could lead to the collapse of their houses and are demanding that a local company cease all operations on the river.

The Phal Sareth Import Export and Tourism Company has been dredging sand from the river in Peamro district’s Prek Khsay Khor commune day and night since December, villagers said by telephone Tuesday.

“I am very worried that my house could collapse because it is located on the riverbank,” said Sras Channy, 32, from Prek Kh­say village. “The dredging is just about 100 to 150 meters from the bank. It looks very dangerous to us.”

According to documents ob­tain­ed Tuesday, 139 people in Prek Khsay village wrote letters on Feb 13 to Prime Minister Hun Sen, National Assembly Pres­ident Heng Samrin, Interior Min­ister Sar Kheng, Minister of Water Resources Lim Kean Hor, Minis­ter of Industry Suy Sem and Prey Veng Provincial Governor Ung Samy seeking their intervention with the company.

The villagers have so far re­ceived no response from the government, said one of them, Sin Rath, 53. A company representative refused to show the operating license to the villagers, he added.

“They still continue dredging non-stop, including at night,” he said.

Bun Chan Krisna, deputy director-general of Phal Sareth, said the complaints stemmed from jeal­ousy, not from genuine fear of danger by the local residents.

“We do it with the cooperation of local authorities and experts,” he said.

He confirmed his company hired the fleet of 14 boats dredging north of the Neak Leung ferry ter­minal that can carry up to 3,000 cubic meters of sand each. The sand travels down the delta to Vietnam, and eventually to Sing­apore, he said.

An Oct 22 letter from the Min­istry of Water Resources ordered the company to stop dredging in a prohibited area to avoid damaging National Road 11, but Bun Chan Krisna denies the company ever operated in the protected zone.

Chan Yuttha, Lim Kean Hor’s chief of cabinet, said Tuesday that the ministry had received a complaint from the villagers attached with photographs of dredging boats. Lim Kean Hor will meet with the Kandal and Prey Veng governors Thursday to review sand dredging operations, including Phal Sareth’s, he added.


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