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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Show licences or ship out, sand dredgers told

A sand dredger digs up the riverbed in the capital’s Russei Keo district last month
A sand dredger digs up the riverbed in the capital’s Russei Keo district last month. HENG CHIVOAN

Show licences or ship out, sand dredgers told

Phnom Penh municipal officials have ordered owners of eight sand-dredging companies that continued work despite a mandated moratorium to halt operations and show proof of their licences or shut down for good.

On Saturday, the municipality informed the owners, whose names they declined to release, that they had to show municipal officials the proper documentation by Monday, Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Khuong Sreng told the Post. As of yesterday afternoon, some had not yet presented their licences, he said.

“We ordered them to the Phnom Penh municipality office today to let them show their licences or any legal documents from my department and related ministries after we temporarily closed their operations,” Phnom Penh governor Pa Socheatvong said.

Socheatvong’s order came five days after he ordered a complete suspension of all sand-dredging activities while the municipality investigates whether companies along the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers are
operating illegally.

A controversial industry in Cambodia, sand dredging is necessary to protect waterways, government officials have maintained. On the other hand, environmental groups say dredging work is done almost exclusively for profit and can be disastrous for ecosystems.

“Some sand-dredging companies have licences, but use poor techniques, which angers residents and environmental advocates,” Socheatvong said.

Several riverbanks in the Meanchey and Russei Keo districts of the capital have collapsed in the past few years, knocking down some homes into the Mekong and severely damaging others. Village representatives have pointed to dredging as the cause. A resident of Russei Keo district’s Chraing Chamreh commune who spoke on the condition of anonymity told the Post yesterday that at least two dredging companies there continued operations after the municipality ordered the moratorium.

“I did not see them stop,” the resident said. “Until now, I’ve still seen them operating with two ferries and five trucks to transfer sand.”

Chraing Chamreh commune chief Peach Saroun said that authorities will check the allegation.

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