Villagers claim they’ve suffered from skin diseases since a small-scale gold mine opened
Villagers say mining camps such as this one in Preah Vihear province
have poisoned their water and are making them and their animals ill.
THE use of poisonous chemicals by gold
miners in Preah Vihear province has polluted local streams and rivers,
according to ethnic minority villagers, who say tainted water is
causing skin disease and killing livestock.
Svay Phoeun, a community representative from Rovieng district, said
that since the arrival of miners from Kampong Thom and Kampong Cham
provinces late last year, more than 60 cows and buffaloes had been
killed and villagers had been affected by unknown skin conditions.
"At the beginning the water was no problem but after they used
chemicals, to clean the mines, we started getting sick and our animals
died," Svay Phoeun said, adding that villagers then took matters into
their own hands. "The miners stopped their work after their equipment
was confiscated and destroyed by angry villagers in early August."
According to a recent report from the rights group Licadho, 205
villagers and three local police officers destroyed mining shelters and
confiscated the mining equipment, holding it at the district police
station. "Police and eight local villagers were accused of destroying
the property," the report said. "But district authorities backed the
local villagers and prevented their arrest."
According to Licadho, Rovieng Deputy District Governor Kiet Kimtol said
that he will ask permission from provincial authorities to intervene on
the villagers' behalf and prevent their arrest.
Khieu Chan, land livelihood officer at NGO Forum on Cambodia, said that
even though the miners had stopped their activities, chemical elements
were still present in local waterways.
"We will visit the area next week to see the situation of the people
there and will appeal to the provincial authorities to intervene,"
Khieu Chan said. "We are trying to find a way of diluting the poison so
that people can drink the water."
Preah Vihear Governor Preap Tann could not be reached for comment Sunday.