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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Investigation uncovers more details about illegal oil plant

Investigation uncovers more details about illegal oil plant

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An oil reprocessing plant in Dangkor district that was ordered to close following complaints from neighbouring villagers.

There’s a concern that [the motor oil and fuel] may end up reaching the market.

ONE day of investigation has already shed much more light on the case of an unlicensed factory – the owner and purpose of which were unknown to local officials prior to its closure on Sunday – operated illegally in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district for more than a month, district officials said on Monday.

The investigation was prompted by a joint complaint filed on Friday by hundreds of residents of Trapaing Thlueng village in Choam Chau commune who lived near the facility, which reprocessed motor oil into a form of recycled fuel. Villagers described a daily blanket of smog and acrid smells released from the site that caused widespread vomiting, respiratory problems and headaches.

Kong Chhorn, Trapaing Thlueng village chief, said he participated in Sunday’s closure. Inside the factory, officials discovered two large vats, each holding 8,000 litres of used motor oil, as well as various containers of chemicals that have yet to be identified.

“The factory workers admitted that they bought used motor oil from sources across the country, and in just over a month managed to produce about 8,000 litres of fuel oil,” Kong Chhorn said.

“The motor oil is still sitting in the factory, and the recycled fuel is nowhere to be found, so there’s a concern that both products may end up
reaching the market.”

Hem Narith, deputy governor of Dangkor district, said there was no danger of the factory owner profiting from the illegally produced fuel or its precursors, but was unable to specify how similar cases might be prevented in the future.

“Chen Houngo, the Chinese national who ran the factory and managed its all-Chinese workforce, thumbprinted a document in which he promised to stop producing the fuel and desist from all related activities that would break our economic and environmental laws,” he said.

Regardless of what happens to either the fuel or the man behind its toxic production, villagers say they are overjoyed that the factory has closed.

Van Vannath, who lived just 40 metres from the site, said, “Even though the smoke and smell that came from the place are still polluting the environment for now, we are still happy that this factory has been closed for good.”

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