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Svay Rieng dredging destroying farmland

DREDGING operations are causing whole sections of farmland along Svay Rieng’s Toek Vel River to collapse, villagers said in a petition thumb printed by more than 300 affected families.

Ros Mov, a chief of Romeas Hek Samiky Land Community, said yesterday 389 families from four communes in Romeas Hek district – Koki, Doung, Ampil and Kampong Trach – were worried their farmland would be washed away.

“We are alarmed that our farmland on the river bank has been collapsing since Vietnamese boats began dredging on the Toek Vel River,” she said, adding that they had filed their complaint to the provincial hall.

“If the authorities do not intervene, the loss of our farmland will continue and it will affect other communes in the future.”

Kem Van, 25, said a strip of farmland 50 metres long and 20 metres deep on the river bank in Koki commune had collapsed since dredging began in the area in 2009.

“My family’s living is supported by this farmland. My cassava and rice crops have disappeared,” he said, adding that he had lived in the area  his entire life.

Prak Saran, a Svay Rieng provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc said about three to five boats were dredging in the area everyday, but it remained unclear if the Vietnamese-crewed vessels were working for a private company or a government body.

“We helped them to prepare and file a complaint to provincial authorities,” Prak Saran said.

“Local authorities confirmed that in some places 10-metre sections collapsed and in other areas 30-metre sections collapsed.”

Dom Som Oun, the chief of Koki commune, said he was unsure if the dredging was illegal, but confirmed that sections of bank had collapsed into the river.

Provincial hall officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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