Kampot provincial governor Khoy Khun Hour has refused to explain why large-scale sand dredging is being conducted in his province amid the revelation that one of his own district officials found river banks had collapsed in the vic-inity of the operations.
Will Baxter/Phnom Penh Post
A barge partly filled with sand passes under a bridge (not pictured) on the Kampong Bay river in Kampot town earlier this month. In the background sits a sand-dredging crane.
A document obtained by the Post shows Teuk Chhou district deputy chief Se Dang inspected three sections of river bank that had collapsed where dredging vessels operated by a company owned by Mao Thaknin had been operating.
“Villagers have expressed their deep concern about the sand-dredging operation and protested, and 40 families asked that the sand-dredging operation terminate,” the letter says, locating the affected river bank in Mak Braing and Kampong Kreng commune.
Another two sections of river bank where dredges were operating nearby had begun subsiding, the letter, dated August 3, 2011, states.
Se Dang said yesterday Mao Thaknin’s company had violated the terms of its agreement, specifically by dredging too close to the river bank in Prek Chhar, in Mak Braing and Kampong Kreng commune.
“Mao Thaknin’s company pumped sand at Prek Chhar, not far from the river bank which fell down last year. The company operated at the wrong place, where it was not allowed. Since then, we have put buoys on the river to tell them where they could pump,” he said.
A separate document obtained by the Post reveals that in November, 2009, Thaknin Tharith Import Export Co Ltd was licensed to dredge sand “for export” at several locations on the Kampong Bay estuary in Kampot’s Teuk Chhou district totalling 42.5 hectares.
“Thaknin Tharith Import Export Co. Ltd must guarantee to follow technical conditions of mining business and guarantee the protection of environment in accordance with the law,” the agreement states.
No contact details for Thaknin Tharith are publicly available, even on its website.
Two other firms, the Keo Tha Company and the Theo Vorin Company, have conducted dredging operations in the Kampong Bay estuary.
Khoy Khun Hour has repeatedly refused to identify the company involved or confirm whether an environmental impact assessment has been conducted, deflecting all questions to subordinates who have refused to comment.
Opposition Sam Rainsy Party Kampot National Assembly representative Mu Sochua said the governor was obliged to explain why the dredging was not being regulated and where the proceeds of it were going.
“He’s the governor; he is acc-ountable to the people, and this is a very serious impact on the lives of the people and he cannot refuse to speak,” she said, adding that Prime Minister Hun Sen had quite clearly forbidden such dredging activities.
In 2009, Hun Sen announced a ban on dredging for export.
Three companies operating in the area – Thaknin Tharith Import Export Co, the Keo Tha Company and the Theo Vorin Company – continued dredging and subsequently had their licences temporarily suspended by the government shortly afterwards.
Last week, sand mining was still being conducted close to the river bank in Kampong Kreng commune and three capsized sand barges had simply been abandoned in the Kampong Bay estuary.