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Kandal villagers burn tyres to fight dredging

Nearly a hundred villagers living along a river located in Sa’ang district’s Koh Anlong Chin commune in Kandal province recently protested against the plans of one company to dredge sand in the area.

On Sunday, employees of sand-dredging company Sok Teang Import Export, which has been licensed by the Ministry of Mines and Energy, transported around 10 ferries and machines to the area and started excavating the river, according to Anlong Chin commune resident Chan Van.

The move sparked the villagers’ ire and more than a hundred proceeded to protest between Sunday evening and yesterday morning by riding seven boats along the river and burning tyres at the riverbanks, demanding that local authorities intervene with the sand dredging plan, Van added.

“We know that the company got a licence recently from the Ministry of Mines and Energy but we who live along the river are worried about the riverbank collapsing and already, there are many ferries starting to work on it,” he said.

On January 19, the ministry granted Sok Teang Import Export permission to conduct sand dredging operations on 3,177 hectares in Anlong Chin commune’s Sa’ang district.

“The company got a licence legally from the Ministry of Mines and Energy but now the villagers who live there dislike the plan and are concerned about risks, so the provincial governor is ordering the company, local authorities and the villagers to have a meeting together to find a solution,” Sa’ang district governor Khem Chan Kiri said.

According to Chan Kiri, Kandal’s provincial governor has also ordered the villagers to cease protesting ahead of the planned meeting today.

Although the protests have not been violent, Sa’ang district police chief Seng Socheat said, police have also called for the villagers to end their demonstration.

“We are calling on them to stop because now the authorities have agreed with them to find a solution,” Socheat said.

Sok Teang Import Export could not be reached for comment.

While the government has cracked down on dredging, a number of companies have been allowed to continue operating because of heavy demand in the construction sector.

Still, unlicensed activity occurs frequently. In December, Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem reminded governors of Kandal, Prey Veng and Phnom Penh to crack down on illegal sand dredging.

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