Villagers Say Dredging a Danger, Disturbance

About 50 villagers living along the Mekong River in Phnom Penh’s Chbar Ampov district protested outside their local pagoda Sunday to demand that authorities take action against a company illegally dredging sand from the riverbed.

For the past month, residents of Veal Sbov commune have been woken up in the middle of the night by the roar of dredging boats, commune chief Yim Siman said.

Mr. Siman said that every night, between three and five boats sneak into the river under cover of darkness and begin excavating the sandy bottom, disappearing by sunrise.

“This is the second time that people protested [against] the sand dredging in this area because they are worried that riverbank erosion will affect their houses,” Ms. Siman said.

“The noise also disturbs their sleep,” she said.

“Previously, district authorities came to tell them not to dredge the sand here, but after one or two nights, they came back again. They do not seem to be afraid of the law.”

District governor Eang Siphan said that after the villagers’ protest Sunday, he instructed local police to summon the foreman and three dredge operators responsible for the illicit operation.

“We called them to warn them, and make them agree that if it happens again, we will take tough action,” he said, refusing to name those who were summonsed.

Mr. Siphan also said he did not know the name of the company that employed the four men, before hanging up on a reporter.

District police chief Neth Sithon declined to comment.

City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said that no companies registered in Phnom Penh have been granted licenses to dredge sand.

“There are no sand-dredging licenses [for companies] in the capital, but there could be some [boats] coming from outside,” Mr. Dimanche said, adding that he also did not know the name of the company responsible for the dredging in Chbar Ampov.

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