OFFICIALS in Kampong Chhnang province have begun recording information on an estimated 2,000 families living in floating villages on the Tonle Sap river, part of preparations to relocate some of them in response to dwindling fish catches and increasingly insanitary conditions.
Hok My, the chief of the Phsar Krom community, said the census began last month, adding that he did not know when it would be completed.
Established shortly after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime, the community is composed of ethnic Vietnamese, Khmer and Cham Muslim families.
“About 60 percent of villagers living in the floating community can no longer catch enough fish to sell in the market,” Hok My said. “The riverbank has eroded, the water level is lower, and villagers in the community release about 1 tonne of waste every day, so the conditions are very unsanitary.”
He added that he had received “requests from a number of poor villagers” to be granted farmland.
Sam Chankea, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said the relocation of some of the families had been discussed since 2000, but that officials had never settled on a definitive plan.
Reached on Tuesday, provincial governor Touch Marim confirmed that the census had been launched, but said he did not know when any relocations would take place.
“We need to resolve this problem,” he said. “Otherwise there will be damage to the environment and no waterway for traffic.”