Villagers Say Canal Drained Water From Their Rice Fields

About 100 villagers living near the Vietnamese border in Svay Rieng province were visited by a deputy provincial governor on Monday after protesting against a company for digging a canal and road alongside their land, which they said drained water from their rice fields.

The company, Eastern Rice Field Development, started digging the canal in Svay Teap district earlier this month to direct water away from its flood-prone sugarcane plantation, villagers said on Monday, but dumped dirt in their fields and drained them in the process.

“The Cambodian company cooperated with a Vietnamese company to dig the canal from August 20 until Sunday and built the road that did the damage to our rice fields,” said Khuon Monileakh, 33, a local farmer who joined a protest against the company on Sunday.

“The Vietnamese company dug the canal, and they took the dirt and put it on hundreds of our rice fields,” added Chum Ravuth, 24, another farmer who joined the protest. “Digging the canal made our rice fields dry up, because the water flowed out of the fields.”

Not only that, Mr. Ravuth said, but rice seeds promised to villagers by the company director—who is also a commune clerk—to compensate for the damage were never delivered.

Deputy provincial governor Pich Savann, who met with the villagers on Monday, said he believed only about 40 villagers’ farms were damaged by the canal and road, but that a solution would be found soon.

Koy Saren, the director of Eastern Rice Field Development, said most of the villagers agreed to the construction of the canal and road in exchange for rice seeds, and that his only mistake was in delivering them late.

“On August 23, I told the people whose land would be affected that I will give rice seeds to them on about August 29, because I was busy learning about the registration for the commune elections,” he said.

“It’s not a big problem. I will resolve this for the people who are involved with the land tomorrow.”

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