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.