Villagers Alarmed By Sudden Shift in Dredging Situation

Through a spokesman, villagers in Prey Veng province said Friday that they were alarmed by the government’s sudden reversal this week on banning sand dredging near the Neak Leung ferry crossing.

After two years of opposition to the massive dredging operation, the Water Resources Mini­stry decided Tuesday to allow the Phal Sareth company to continue dredging at the Mekong River ferry crossing, which takes vehicles traveling on National Road 1 between Kandal and Prey Veng provinces. The ministry said the company had agreed to abide by technical instructions to minimize damage from the dredging.

However, as recently as last month, the ministry had issued its fifth order since 2007 to stop the dredging, which was again disregarded by the company. The ministry had said the dredging could cause erosion leading to the collapse of riverside houses and National Road 11.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap, who represents Prey Veng pro­vince, has also reversed his public opposition to the dredging.

“I feel deep regret that [Cheam Yeap] used to promise to stay with villagers in his constituency and promised to find out the mastermind of the dredging operation in order to defend the people’s interests,” said Seng Sovann, 30, who represents 139 villagers in Peamro district’s Prek Khsay Khor commune in Prey Veng province.

“Now the villagers are shock­ed and disappointed after learning that he has written an intervention letter to help the Phal Sareth dredging business,” he said.

After demanding an immediate halt to the dredging on March 19, Cheam Yeap on April 4 wrote to the ministry asking that the dredging be allowed to continue to ease the passage of boats.

Cheam Yeap could not be reached Friday, but he said by telephone Thursday that he had changed his mind after discovering that taxation on sand sales could generate revenue for the state. He, however, said last month that sand dredging generates little tax revenue.


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